Mainers endured a one-two punch of morning floods and evening ice slicks on Saturday as temperatures plunged quickly from highs in the 40s and 50s to below freezing across the state.

Wild weather caused flooding on roadways and in basements Saturday morning as a two-day thaw ended and temperatures started falling back into the deep freeze zone. By late afternoon, temperatures dipped into the 20s across the state, causing slick conditions on some roadways and sidewalks.

Potentially dangerous icy conditions were expected to continue overnight on Saturday, with the possibility of additional flooding along Maine rivers from a combination of rainfall, melted snow and ice jams.

“Ice jams are still a threat for several more hours through the night,” said meteorologist John Cannon of the National Weather Service office in Gray.

VEHICLES SWAMPED

In Waterville, several vehicles were swamped Saturday after a rainstorm caused unexpected flooding in parts of the city and elsewhere.

The area around Drummond Avenue, which is just off College Avenue, was hit the worst after unseasonably warm weather melted snow piles and rain caused heavy flooding.

Mike Palmer, the owner of Ace Tire and Service on Drummond Avenue, said the Fire Department called him around 6:45 a.m. Saturday to tell him his business was basically submerged. By 1 p.m. virtually all of the water was gone, but he said at least 10 of the 20 cars he has at the business potentially were ruined.

“It was pretty bad,” he said. “There was a couple of a feet of water.”

He said the water there was so high that benches in a park across the street were almost covered.

Palmer and his crew still were working to get the water out of the business Saturday afternoon, and he said the basement still had a lot of water left in it. He said the drains on the street were clogged, so they had to work to free those to drain the water on the street. Thankfully, he said, the affected vehicles on the property were all part of his sales inventory, not customer cars. More cars are parked behind the business.

WATERVILLE, ME – JANUARY 13, 2018
ACE Tire and Service on Drummond Avenue was flooded by rain water and snow melt as warm temperatures and heavy rain rolled through the Waterville area on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

Elsewhere in Waterville, the Fire Department dealt with about 10 flooded basements across the city, said fire Capt. John Gromek. He said in most cases, those affected were getting about a foot or less of water, but some had as much as 3 or 4 feet of water.

“That’s all we’ve been doing is chasing flooded basements,” he said.

Gromek said part of Trafton Road, in the southern end of the city, was shut down earlier in the day because of flooding. He said the department also assumes that many more cases of flooded basements exist but simply hadn’t been reported yet. He advised residents to make sure they have pumps ready to get water out of their basements, but also cautioned against going into the water if power lines are present.

“It’s not regular,” Gromek said of this type of flooding in January. “It takes a rainstorm like this.”

Around Augusta, there weren’t nearly as many reports of flooding, but police closed the north end of the city’s Front Street parking lot Saturday in case ice jams caused the Kennebec River to flood into the parking lot.

Hallowell Fire Chief Jim Owens said firefighters pumped out a couple of flooded basements in that city, and there was minor flooding in a parking lot on Litchfield Road near Burt’s Security.

POWER OUTAGES

While temperatures still hovered near 50 degrees along the coast by midmorning, the mercury dropped to near freezing in the Portland area by early afternoon.

The fog overnight from the thaw was a factor in a fatal car crash in the York County town of Lebanon, Maine State Police said. No other serious accidents were reported in other parts of the state.

Some homeowners across Penobscot, Waldo and Hancock counties reported flooding basements, while Somerset, Washington and Hancock counties saw flooding on roads due to melting snow and clogged storm drains.

About 2,500 homes and businesses, mostly in Hancock County, that are customers of Emera Maine were without power early Saturday, The Associated Press reported. By noon, that number had dropped to about 1,300 customers, and it was down to 63 by 8 p.m.

Just before 8 p.m., there were 1,612 Central Maine Power Co. customers without power, 1,558 of them in Oxford County.

‘STEEP, STRONG COLD FRONT’

State police warned motorists Saturday morning that roads throughout Aroostook County were covered with ice and snow and therefore treacherous. Maine Department of Transportation crews were out clearing and treating roadways, but police urged motorists to use caution and plan for slow traveling.

Cannon, the meteorologist, said “a very steep, strong cold front” brought the rapid drop in temperatures Saturday. The low overnight in Portland was expected to be 11 degrees – 39 degrees colder than Saturday’s high of 50 degrees.

The weather service was forecasting a high of 21 degrees on Sunday, followed by a high of 19 degrees on Monday. A minor accumulation of snow is expected at midweek, Cannon said.

“This is a shot of cold air, but not the brutal arctic air we had last week,” he said.

Staff writers J. Craig Anderson of the Maine Sunday Telegram, Colin Ellis of the Morning Sentinel, and Jason Pafundi of the Kennebec Journal contributed to this report.