HALLOWELL — Even as ice and water slowly receded back into the Kennebec River on Tuesday, Hallowell officials and business owners continued to question whether anything could have been done to minimize damage to vehicles and businesses along Front Street that were inundated when the river suddenly rose over its banks last weekend.

The unexpected flooding early Sunday morning resulted in more than a dozen destroyed vehicles and thousands of dollars in damage to businesses.

On Tuesday, the Kennebec Journal found that Kennebec County and local officials failed to heed a flood warning the National Weather Service issued hours before the river flooded its banks. Previously, local officials have alerted people in low-lying areas when flood warnings are issued.

Mayor Mark Walker said the City Council will look at whether residents and businesses should have been informed, but City Manager Nate Rudy said Tuesday he doesn’t think it’s time yet for that discussion.

“I don’t think it behooves us to have that conversation until everybody is ready to sit down and talk without being distracted,” Rudy said. Rudy said the city will meet with emergency management partners to discuss what happened.

Councilor Maureen Aucoin said the city tries to be as prepared as possible, but it is difficult to predict flooding that occurs at this time of year rather than the spring.

“Any time an event like this happens that impacts so many and causes so much damage, the city will look at it to see what, if anything, could be done differently,” she said. “We have strict codes for any new development in the flood zone to minimize risk, but unfortunately, much of Hallowell’s downtown is already well developed in an area perpetually prone to flooding.”

Sometime after midnight Sunday morning, broken ice dammed up downstream, near Farmingdale, and the water rose about 8 feet in downtown Hallowell and Augusta in just a few minutes. Basements filled with icy water, and while no injuries were reported, there was damage to buildings and vehicles in both cities.

At its peak, the Kennebec surged above the 12-foot flood stage, reaching close to 20 feet, the third-highest crest on record in Augusta.

The river was just below 13 feet at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and National Weather Service meteorologist Margaret Curtis said it should drop below flood level by Wednesday afternoon.

The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the Kennebec on Friday, after issuing a watch the day before. That information did not make it to Hallowell business owners, residents or local officials, including Police Chief Eric Nason.

In Augusta, one car was damaged after police warned drivers not to park in the flood plain Saturday. Augusta police, who closed Front Street on Saturday, said Tuesday that it would remain closed to drivers and pedestrians indefinitely. There was no such warning in Hallowell.

Kennebec County Emergency Management director Sean Goodwin said he never received the flood warning from the weather service, so he didn’t have any information other than the alert about the advisory he sent out Friday after a conference call with the state’s emergency management agency and the U.S. Coast Guard.

“There’s no way we can predict when an ice jam can happen, nor the severity of the jam,” Goodwin said.

BUSINESSES BEGIN DRYING OUT

The parking lot on Front Street near the HydeOut at the Wharf bar, where about 17 vehicles were submerged Sunday, was being cleaned up Tuesday by the city’s Public Works Department and private towing companies.

Rudy said a public works loader broke up a lot of the ice Tuesday, which allowed several of the frozen vehicles to be towed out of the area.

The Quarry Tap Room’s basement had 3 feet of water Sunday morning and all of the restaurant’s food, beer, wine and liquor was lost. Jason Pafundi can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ