A 51 mm gun from a Naval ship and an Army Jeep at Veterans Memorial Park are overcome by the Androscoggin River in Lewiston during the December 2023 storm. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is sending teams to several western and central Maine counties to help residents register for disaster assistance from the Dec. 18 storm, according to a Saturday news release.

Flooding from the Dec. 18 storm and power outages amounted to some $20 million in damages, according to reports from residents, businesses, municipalities, and counties since the storm.

The FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance teams are canvassing neighborhoods door to door to give residents access to funds recently made available by a presidential disaster declaration. President Biden formalized the declaration on Jan. 31 for 10 counties that saw significant damage from the December storm. Gov. Janet Mills submitted a request for the executive action on Jan. 16.

Gov. Mills’ request came hot on the heels of two January storms that battered coastal Maine and left some of the worst damage it’s seen in decades. Biden’s declaration does not include disaster relief for damages from the two January storms, but the Maine Emergency Management Agency continues working with cities and towns to assess those costs of damage.

FEMA’s Disaster Survivor Assistance teams are visiting homes, schools, nonprofit organizations and “communities with limited access,” according to the release. Teams are also meeting with local officials to discuss disaster-related issues and unmet needs.

As teams continue to work through their areas, officials want the public to know no one will be asked for a fee to accept money for disaster assistance or for providing help filling out applications. Disaster Survivor Assistance team members wear FEMA identification badges with photographs and may offer residents the use of a tablet to register for assistance. They may also ask residents permission to enter information on their behalf. But it will be an no cost to the resident.


Along with funds for individual property damage, the declaration also gives the state access to Public Assistance Program federal funds for repairs to infrastructure like roads, bridges, public buildings and utilities in Androscoggin, Franklin, Hancock, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset, Waldo and Washington counties.

The Kennebec River floods the parking lot of the Hathaway Creative Center on Dec. 19 in Waterville following a historic storm that dumped several inches of rain across the region. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

Kennebec County did not meet the threshold for public infrastructure damage to be considered part of the disaster area, but it did meet the threshold for individual property damage. Maine Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Vanessa Corson said Wednesday that the county has 30 days to produce enough documentation of damage for FEMA to consider it for public assistance for infrastructural repairs.

Many of the towns and cities with significant damage to public infrastructure and private homes and businesses are along the Androscoggin and Kennebec rivers, which both crested at record highs in the days after the storm.

The Kennebec River saw a crest of nearly 27 feet, about 7 feet below the 100-year flood level. Parts of downtown Augusta and Hallowell were well underwater and many Hallowell businesses are still closed for repairs. Some 20 miles north in Waterville, several roads and parking lots were flooded and many residences were forced to evacuate. Dr. William Tanner, longtime case manager at Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, was killed removing a tree brought down by the storm.

The Androscoggin River crested at a third all-time high of 22 feet. Flooding in Swift River, which meets the Androscoggin River between Oxford County’s Rumford and Mexico, claimed the lives of two people from a party of four in a pickup truck attempting to cross floodwaters near Red Bridge. Judy Richards, 61, and her granddaughter Ciara Cooper, 20, were swept into the river and their bodies were recovered days later.

About 17 miles west in Newry, the home of Sunday River Ski Resort which also lies on the Androscoggin River, public roadways were so impacted that guests and employees of the resort were briefly marooned and parts of the resort, including one building, were washed out.


Water cascades Dec. 20 over Great Falls on the Androscoggin River between Auburn and Lewiston as floodwaters begin to recede. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Several parts of Lewiston were victim to flood waters, namely Veterans Memorial Park which sustained heavy damage. Many benches, stones and memorials were swept away. Some of the park’s 34 granite memorial stones were tipped over and several sustained scratches from debris.

The park’s iconic World War II Willys Jeep and naval gun were disturbed but remained upright and were moved to higher ground for repairs to the site. The lower wall that separates the park from the river is estimated to cost around $100,000 for the city to repair, according to Lewiston & Auburn Veterans Council.

In Franklin County, floods in Farmington turned the college town into an island, making travel to and from the area impossible for a short period. An engorged Sandy River threatened evacuation for Farmington Falls residents and a Canton-based rehabilitation facility relocated patients to Spruce Mountain High School in Jay until floodwaters in Canton receded.

Some of the other standout expenses for towns in the past weeks include the town of Dixfield, which took a vote on Jan. 22 to secure $1 million in interim funding from Androscoggin Bank to pay for repairs to over half a dozen roads; a flooded Eddy Middle School in Bethel has moved temporarily to the West Parish Congregational Church; and a nonprofit group in Rumford and Mexico is organizing funds to help over 75 households.

Also, Farmington selectmen approved a new $58,000 plow truck to replace one demolished by flooding; Hallowell is allocating $75,000 in aid for businesses affected by the storm; and Gardiner business owners continue to grapple with insurance policies that do not cover flooding.

A new bridge, back, replaces one torn apart in the December 2023 storm at the corner of Poplar Brook Lane and Route 26 in Newry. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

The Maine Legislature is also voting on a bill that would designate $50 million to a new program called the Small Business Weather Emergency Relief program.

Several towns, cities and county emergency management agencies throughout Maine are also reexamining their disaster readiness programs.

Apply for assistance via the FEMA mobile app, online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362.

Those using video relay service, captioned telephone service or other forms of communication can provide FEMA with their numbers. Phone lines operate seven days a week 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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