A powerful storm brought torrential rain and hurricane force winds to much of Maine on Friday, causing flooding and damage in coastal communities, leaving roughly 255,000 customers without power late in the day and disrupting travel plans for many two days before Christmas.

Even one of the state’s most well-known landmarks, Portland Head Light, sustained significant damage. The fierce wind and crashing waves during the late morning high tide, which at 13.7 feet was the fourth highest on record, smashed a window and door and left debris scattered around the building.

Jon Palmer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said that the storm delivered as expected.

“A lot of the hazards we warned for, particularly the coastal flooding, we’ve seen some verification,” Palmer said Friday afternoon. “And we’re still not out of it.”

Power outages began popping up early Friday and climbed steadily throughout the day. By 9 p.m., nearly 204,000 customers of Central Maine Power – almost a third of all its customers – were without power, including roughly 52,000 in Cumberland County and nearly 44,000 in York County. Additionally, nearly 51,000 customers of Versant Power, which serves northern and eastern Maine, did not have power as of 9 p.m.

The Portland International Jetport lost power around 11:30 a.m., shutting down boarding for about two hours until it was restored. Due to the outage and high winds outside, two flights scheduled to land in Portland were diverted elsewhere, Airport Director Paul Bradbury said.


There were no flights scheduled to leave the airport during the two-hour window. Once power was restored, roughly 30 people who were waiting inside had to do a second security check.

Several incoming and outbound flights were canceled Friday, but some were still scheduled into the evening. The jetport advised travelers to contact their airline for current flight information.

Maine’s coastal communities were hit hardest, where heavy rain and high winds led to flooding. The entire region was under a warning Friday for high wind, with gusts of 55 to 70 mph along the immediate coast, decreasing to 55 to 65 mph inland.

Emergency responders were called for several water rescues.

In Old Orchard Beach, the fire department confirmed that officials performed a water rescue on a flooded home. Wells police Capt. Kevin Chabot helped rescue a driver on Mile Road, according to a Twitter post from the agency that showed him carrying a person from their vehicle on a water-covered road.

And in Scarborough, police tweeted that U.S. Route 1, from Haigis Parkway to Payne Road, was closed due to flooding.


Parts or Portland also were flooded Friday afternoon, including Commercial Street near the waterfront and outer Congress Street as well.

A wave crashes over a car traveling along Beach Avenue in Kennebunk two hours before high tide on Friday morning. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Although the storm was projected to move out to sea Friday night, a burst of cold air will arrive on its heels. Temperatures are likely to be in the teens by Saturday morning, with wild chills even colder. That drastic temperature swing in a short period could cause flash freezing on the roads at a time when many people might be traveling ahead of the holiday.

“The timing of the storm couldn’t have been worse,” said Palmer, the weather service meteorologist.

Saturday’s cold temperatures also could hamper power restoration efforts.


CMP has advised customers that restoring power to all households could take several days, which means some may be in the dark on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.


Adam Desrosier, CMP’s vice president of electric operations, said the utility company had more than 300 contractor crews and 220 tree crews from Canada and as far south as Georgia in position before the storm to respond to power outages. Many of those crews remained in Maine after helping restore power during last weekend’s storm.

Tanya Alsberg bails water out of the front door of JAK Designs in Kennebunkport on Friday. The high tide flooded the Dock Square area of Kennebunkport and water was coming under the back door at the store, Alsberg said. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

On the water, conditions were even worse than on land Friday. The weather service reported that extremely strong winds could lead to capsized vessels and make it hard for mariners to see.

State offices were closed Friday by the governor’s order, a harbinger of the potential damage the storm could cause.

Officials advised caution for those who planned to travel.

“Today’s storm could cause major issues on the roads to include hydroplaning, debris and visibility issues that could seriously impact driving conditions,” Maine State Police spokesperson Shannon Moss said in an email Friday morning. “We encourage people to only drive if needed and if you have to be out on the roads to please use caution.”

Rainfall totals varied across the state. Portland was on track late Friday to see 2 inches of rain, while inland areas were projected to see anywhere from 2.5 to 4 inches of rain. As snow continued to melt, officials were monitoring river levels for additional flooding.


Meteorologically speaking, the storm was created when a current of cold air pushed through the Midwest, followed immediately by another system featuring warmer air.

“Because there was such a great temperature difference between the two, it allowed for the storm to intensify pretty significantly,” Palmer said.

Warming centers opened in several Maine counties Friday. The Maine Emergency Management Agency identified three warming centers on its website Thursday evening, including the South Portland Community Center on Nelson Road, the Naples town office and the Lovell fire station. To find a location near your home, you can also dial 2-1-1.

The storm disrupted travel across the country as it made its way east. According to FlightAware, a website that provides real time flight information, more than 1,200 flights were canceled Thursday and close to 400 flight delays have been reported.

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