WESTBROOK–The Sappi paper mill was back up and running early this week after a heavy rainstorm last Thursday night shut down some of its operations through Monday due to flooding.

The storm knocked down trees, flooded roads and left nearly 100,000 people in Cumberland and York counties without power, including Westbrook City Hall, which was closed Friday. Schools were also closed.

Public works and Central Maine Power Co. crews worked all weekend to repair damages from the storm.

Gail Rice, spokeswoman for Central Maine Power, said 171 customers in Cumberland County were still without power Monday night. Rice said outages in Cumberland County peaked at about 40,000 around 11 a.m. Friday, but more customers lost power due to high winds on Monday, which also hindered the restoration work.

Gorham Public Works Director Bob Burns said Tuesday water flooded over seven or eight roads in Gorham during the storm.

“We have estimated damage to roads, bridges and culverts at $15,000,” Burns said.

Burns said the damage was “no where near the magnitude” of damage the town sustained in past storms, citing the Patriots Day storm in 2007 and the microburst in 2008.

In Westbrook, the swollen Presumpscot River added to the storm’s damage in the city.

According to Chris Kimble, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, the river crested at 23.5 feet at around 6 a.m. and held steady at that level for several hours.

Flood stage is considered 15 feet and above 23 feet is considered a moderate flood.

Kimble said wind gusts in Portland got up to 67 miles per hour Thursday night. Communities in Cumberland and York counties reported between 4 and 9 inches of rain.

Nicer weather Friday morning brought residents and their cameras out to the Presumpscot’s Saccarappa Falls to watch the river churn.

“It’s quite a sight,” said Rodney Stuart of Gorham, who came out with his 8-year-old son Gage, his wife Lori and his camcorder.

Friday afternoon, however, the raging river forced rescue workers to risk their lives to save two teenage boys who flipped their kayaks around Route 302 and East Bridge Street.

Though both boys were not harmed, Police Chief Bill Baker said the incident should serve as a warning to anyone thinking about entering the river in those conditions.

“This rescue points out the dangerousness of swollen rivers during storms like this,” he said.

At a City Council meeting Monday night, Mayor Colleen Hilton commended the rescue and public services crews for their hard work following the storm.

“It was a pretty wild night,” said Public Services Director Tom Eldridge, but added that the warmer weather made his crew’s work a little easier.

“It would have been a lot worse if it had been snow,” he said.

Gage, Rodney and Lori Stuart of Gorham take advantage of their day off work and school to check out the churning Presumpscot River in Westbrook after heavy rains Thursday night.
Staff photo by Leslie Bridgers


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