A winter storm brought heavy rain, flooding, huge waves and wind gusts of up to 60 mph along the Maine coast Saturday, battering areas of the state still struggling to recover from another wind and rainstorm that caused widespread damage just three days earlier.

The rain arrived early Saturday morning, and by afternoon, around 2 inches had fallen across southern Maine. But high winds, a record-breaking high tide and 15- to 20-foot waves appeared to do the most damage in hard-hit areas from Portland south.

Waves slammed into homes and flooded roads in many York County coastal communities, low-lying streets, piers and waterfront businesses in Portland were swamped, the town pier in Harpswell was tipped over sideways into the sea, and two iconic fishing shacks in South Portland that had stood near Willard Beach for more than a century were washed away.

Old Orchard Beach fire Chief John Gilboy told a Press Herald photographer that first responders made half a dozen water rescues Saturday.

Franklin Street in Portland is flooded around noon on Saturday. Exit 7, both north and southbound, onto I-295 was closed. Photo courtesy of Portland Fire Department

Several major Portland roads were flooded when high tide hit around noon, including Somerset and Franklin streets and Baxter Boulevard, while the north and southbound ramps to Interstate 295 were closed at Exit 7. Casco Bay Lines shut down ferry service Saturday morning and it didn’t resume until about 4:30 p.m.

“The Portland Pier … is covered with water. The water is as high as it’s ever been,” said Portland police Lt. Robert Doherty around noon on Saturday. “The Casco Bay Line ferry boats are almost as high as Commercial Street.


“We just hit the high-water mark,” Doherty added early in the afternoon, noting that some cars were afloat in a few parking lots. “The ocean made its way to Commercial Street at Chandler’s Wharf, at Portland Pier where J’s Oyster is, and the Maine State Pier is completely underwater, with the ocean all the way to the entrance of Franklin Arterial.”

High tide in Portland peaked at 14.57 feet at the Ocean Gateway, according to a preliminary measurement – exceeding the previous record high tide of 14.17 feet set on Feb. 7, 1978, said Maura Casey, lead meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Gray.

Tidal range fluctuates during the month, and Casey said Saturday’s storm struck during this month’s high astronomical tide, which combined with the storm surge to break the record.

“While high tide occurs effectively at the same time along the coast, the surge was at its peak at that time around our coast – Portland and south,” she said.

Casey said the bulk of precipitation had ended and high tide had passed by midafternoon Saturday. But by then, she said, the weather service had received reports of 2 to 3 feet of inundation – water in places where it wouldn’t normally be – from the storm surge, as well as pounding waves of 15 to 20 feet.

“The significant waves are pushing some of that water further inland, leading to beach erosion, dune erosion and stuff like that,” Casey said.


Shortly after 2 p.m., Casey said there were no longer any flood warnings or watches in effect for southern Maine.

Portland saw 2.29 inches of rain during the storm, while Kennebunk’s 2.05-inch total was the highest in York County. At about noon in other parts of Cumberland County, Scarborough had received 2.16 inches, while Brunswick and Buxton recorded 1.73 inches and 1.42 inches, respectively.

The record water level – and the flooding that came with it – was due mostly to unlucky timing, forecaster John Cannon of the National Weather Service’s Gray office said just before 8 p.m. Both rain and winds peaked just before noon, just when Maine was set to see the highest tide of the month.

It’s rare for a storm’s peaks to align so perfectly with high tides, according to Cannon. But by random chance, it happened twice in Maine this week. And while wind speeds were lower on Saturday than they were during Wednesday’s storm, the astronomical hide tide made it more destructive along the coast of southern Maine.

The most significant impacts were along the coast, but Casey said the weather service measured rises in some rivers and streams, including the Presumpscot River in Falmouth, though no rivers or streams had reached flood stage. “On a little bit smaller scale, such as on streets and in areas with poor drainage, we do expect some ponding,” she said.

Saturday’s storm proved far less disruptive in northern Maine, said Louise Fode, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Caribou. Most of that region saw significantly less than 1 inch of rain.


Forecasters initially feared that high waves would batter Down East Maine, parts of which are still reeling from Wednesday’s storm. But Saturday’s top wind speeds were about 10 mph lower than expected, and the easterly direction of the gales limited the size of the waves that made landfall.

“The fact that the waves weren’t as high helped a lot,” Fode said around 2 p.m. “The worst of the event is over.”


In South Portland at Willard Beach, two fishing shacks on Fisherman’s Point, a popular spot for gazing, picnics and even weddings, were swept into Casco Bay.

Ben Tero, of Portland, watched one of the shacks tip back, almost in slow motion, and collapse into the water. He snapped photos as it happened.

“It happened quick, but it wasn’t a sudden collapse,” Tero said. “The whole structure stayed together, and then just tipped back into the water.” Waves were hitting the shack, “then one final wave hit and it lost its balance and went into the water. It wasn’t like a single wave knocked it out.”


The second fishing shack remained for a bit longer, but then it, too, tipped into the water, he said.

Tero said the area now looks barren. “For so long, so many people enjoyed that spot and seeing those shacks,” he said. “It’s a huge landmark on the Maine coast. It’s tragic to watch them go into the water and see the point with them not being there.”

Large waves hammered roads in Wells and other coastal communities, particularly in southern Maine. Coastal roads in Wells were “impassable,” said Wells police Chief Jo-Ann Putnam.

Two shacks on Fishermans Point in South Portland were swept into Casco Bay during a powerful storm Saturday. Photo by Ben Tero @bterophoto

“The astronomically high tide is playing a role in this,” Putnam said, adding that only about half a dozen times in her 38 years with the department has she seen so many roads closed. The rain and waves were also flooding tidal marshes, she said.

As she walked around flooded roads near the ocean Saturday afternoon, the chief said the water was receding and all of the main roads in town were open – but the damage was staggering.

“A couple of houses that are compromised and about to come off their foundations,” she said. “You can’t get near them yet. … There’s a lot of damage. There’s a lot.”


When asked how many buildings have been compromised, Putnam said she didn’t yet know. “We haven’t even got to the front of oceanfront properties.” Most of those homes were unoccupied, seasonal homes, Putnam said.

On Webhannet Drive, which Putnam said was among the hardest-hit roads in Wells, a garage floated away from a house. A video posted to the police department’s Facebook page shows part of a deck floating down a street that more closely resembles a rushing river as it pushes the deck out to the coast.

Another video shows a person kayaking on a heavily flooded street while large, powerful waves crash in the background.

Wells police had asked people not only to stay away from the coast but also not to boat or kayak on flooded streets.

“All these people coming down, gawking, are slowing down the cleanup,” Putnam said.

Houses are slammed by waves at Lord’s Point in Kennebunk during high tide on Saturday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Dan Salvucci’s cottage in Wells comes with beach access, but it isn’t right on the water – at least not usually.


So he couldn’t believe it Saturday when waves easily cleared the 9-foot walls that separate the homes on Webhannet Drive from the ocean, then rolled across the street and down the normally peaceful Days Lane.

“It was like the ocean came down the road,” Salvucci said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

At the peak of the storm, his home was surrounded by 4 feet of water – high enough to reach the hood of the car he’d parked on a hill outside his home, and to submerge his power generator completely. He watched as all manner of debris floated by: sheds, barrels, even stairs that had been knocked loose from nearby homes. “You wouldn’t believe the stuff that was floating through my yard,” he said.

By Saturday evening, the water level had gone down, Salvucci said. But an incomprehensible mess remained: “There’s mud everywhere.”

The storm wrought havoc in Saco, damaging the Camp Ellis Pier, floats, roads, homes and vehicles. Parts of Camp Ellis were submerged as the surf flowed through the streets.

“This latest storm created damage I have not seen in my lifetime in Saco,” Mayor Jodi MacPhail said in a statement. “While we have lost roads and possibly homes, there was, thankfully, no loss of life.”


Michael Durkin, director of the Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency, said the agency was tracking about 20 roads closed by flooding Saturday afternoon.

“Those are just the ones we know about,” Durkin said. “I’m sure there are smaller roads we don’t know about.”

In addition, Durkin said, the agency was aware of a boat that ran aground in Cape Elizabeth. He also said the Harpswell town dock collapsed during the storm.

“Those are some of the bigger impacts,” he said.

Durkin said the EMA will be working with the state in the coming days to notify people of storm relief options. “We will be working to let people know about those,” he said. “I would keep an ear open the next few days because we will be pushing out a lot of that info.”

In Biddeford, all roads and streets leading to the ocean were closed and barricaded Saturday morning, said Roby Fecteau, director of the city’s Emergency Management Agency. All of the intersections on Route 9 were blocked, including Granite Point, Fortunes Rock, Maddox Pond, and Elizabeth.


“We’re blocking everything leading down to the coast,” Fecteau said. “We’re not going to allow any vehicles beyond the barricades.”

Residents who live near the ocean were contacted Friday and asked to leave their homes for higher ground, particularly those whose homes have flooded in the past, Fecteau said.

Officials were keeping an eye on residents who declined to leave their homes, but they warned that emergency rescues might be delayed because of the conditions.

In Old Orchard Beach, several roads were closed because of flooding, Deputy Fire Chief Clifton Whitten said Saturday morning.

“We are experiencing a lot of urban street flooding from the heavy rain. We have a couple of roadways that are closed downtown because of that. We are expecting to close the Ocean Park neighborhood to traffic within the next hour,” he said at 10 a.m.

Public safety officials in Old Orchard Beach and other towns were asking the public to stay away from beaches and coastal roads.


Some residents who live on flood-prone streets left for higher ground, but some stayed, Whitten said. “We know where they are and will keep in touch with them.”

Marty Edwards drove from Nashua, New Hampshire, on Saturday to check on his summer home on Sandpiper Street in Old Orchard Beach.

“The streets are pretty bad. It’s about 2 feet high,” Edwards, 66, said Saturday afternoon. “Our street happens to be lower than the water table, so we’re pretty flooded out.”

He said he expects “pretty good damage” to his house.

Roads to Higgins Beach and Prouts Necks were closed Saturday morning, said John Brennan of the Scarborough Fire Department.

“We’re just trying to keep the people who are going there to get photos and what not out of those areas,” Brennan said.


Several homes and other buildings on Higgins Beach had already been damaged in Wednesday’s storm. “The pump station was flooded out on Wednesday. We can’t make any repairs (until after Saturday’s storm),” Brennan said.

“Speaking with a lot of the residents, they’re doing what they can to shore up things and remove water. We went to one home on Vesper Street (on Friday) that still had 3 feet of standing water in their basement. We know we have some structural damage to buildings.”

The town did not issue any mandatory evacuations, Brennan said, adding that the media did a good job warning residents about the dangers of Saturday’s high tide.


As of Saturday afternoon, Central Maine Power was reporting about 6,800 customers without power, while the state’s other major utility, Versant Power, said about 1,500 of its customers were without electricity.

On the Maine Turnpike, the speed limit was temporarily reduced to 45 mph.


At Portland International Jetport, arrivals and departures were mostly on time Saturday, jetport Assistant Director Zach Sundquist said.

“There’s weather in a lot of our destinations that can always impact flights, but as far as our conditions here, the storm is not impacting our schedule,” he said.

The storm arrived in Maine around 4 or 5 a.m. Some parts of the state got snow, but not as much as forecast, said Jon Palmer, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Gray. Madison, New Hampshire, recorded 2.5 inches of snow, while Gray had just a tenth of an inch.

Along Commercial Street in Portland’s Old Port tourism district, the water flooded piers and wreaked havoc on some businesses Saturday. Cars were half-submerged in water in one public parking lot as waves lapped the sidewalk.

Marcin Gorski, manager of the Aloft hotel in downtown Portland, dumps water from the entrance near Maple Street. It’s the fourth time the hotel has flooded in the 6 months he’s worked there Michele McDonald/Staff Photographer

At the Aloft hotel, several inches of water flooded the lobby, where General Manager Marcin Gorski and his staff were working to clean up Saturday morning. Gorski said the hotel had put up flood barriers before high tide in hopes of keeping more water from coming in. “We probably have 2 to 3 inches (throughout almost the whole lobby),” he said.

Gorski said it’s not the first time the hotel has flooded, but this was the worst he’d seen in a while. “We will have some major repairs,” he said. “I don’t know the cost, but it’s going to be expensive.”


He said the city should improve drainage close to the ocean. “This is just embarrassing for the city,” he said. “I’m new to Portland, and I’ve never experienced something like this before.”

Several people gathered at the intersection of Commercial Street and Portland Pier to gawk at the floodwaters covering the pier. Among them were Addy Smith-Reiman and her son Ole Reiman.

“I think that it’s insane and it’s very sad,” said Reiman, 7. “There’s lots of trash that’s getting picked up and going in the ocean, and people can’t get out of their houses.”

Smith-Reiman said she has lived in Portland for eight years and has never seen such bad flooding, so she and her son took a special trip to the waterfront Saturday to survey the damage. “I think for a little one, he should see this and become aware of it becoming more frequent,” she said.

“This is devastating,” she added. “But it’s also a wake-up call. So for anyone that doesn’t think that our (weather) systems are changing, this is becoming more frequent, more damaging.”

Friends Thomas Clark, Mark Anthony and Stephen Corrente, who make an annual trip to Portland from Rhode Island each January, were capturing pictures and video of the flooding with their phones outside J’s Oyster. “It seems really disruptive to local businesses,” said Clark, who said he wasn’t sure they would be able to get into their favorite restaurant, the King’s Head pub.


“We’re going to make our way over there,” said Clark, 36. “We come here once per year, and this is a once-in-50-years storm. We’re worried about whether we’ll be able to make the trip on a regular basis if there is damage to our favorite businesses.”

At Flatbread Company, water sloshed through holes in the deck outside the pizza restaurant, though they were open for business as usual and had several tables seated at lunchtime.

“I think we’ll be good,” said supervisor Donnie Nelson. “It’s coming through the door, so we’ll just have to clean up a bit later on.”

Nelson said the bathrooms also sustained minor flooding.

“I’ve seen it come up to the deck before, but not like the whole deck,” he said. “It’s pretty crazy.”

Steven and Kim Foss, of South Portland, were at home Saturday morning when they saw a television news report that high tide was about to hit in Portland. So, they headed to the Old Port to check out the conditions.

“It’s just so unusual for Maine to have weather like this this time of year,” said Kim Foss, 66. “It’s crazy really. I’m a Mainer all the way, and I don’t think in my lifetime I’ve seen anything like this.”

“We should probably be home where we’re safe, but curiosity kills the cat,” she added. “Everyone wants to see what’s going on. I took photos because, again, I’ve never seen anything like this.”

A crowd gathers at the edge of the tide line on Custom House Wharf at high tide on Saturday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Staff writer John Terhune and staff photographer Derek Davis contributed to this report.

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