Homes off the Kings Highway in Kennebunkport are flooded following the Jan. 13 storm. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Kennebunk and Kennebunkport collectively sustained seven digit figures in public infrastructure damage from two historic storms that battered Maine’s coastline on Jan. 10 and Jan. 13.

The two storms, which the Mills Administration is pushing for the federal government to recognize as one weather event for the purposes of reporting and accessing federal relief, brought high tides, 60 mph winds, flooding and devastation to local properties and businesses.

In Kennebunk, the town sustained roughly $2 million in damage to infrastructure, public sidewalks and roads — with much of the damage concentrated on Kennebunk’s beaches.

“This could have very easily been worse,” said Christopher Osterrieder, Kennebunk’s town engineer and director of community development at a January Select Board meeting. “We didn’t see destruction or devastation, we saw damage.”

Right before the Jan. 10 storm, the town had done some temporary repairs on a wall near the Narragansett By the Sea condominium complex. Without that $30,000 repair, “it’s pretty likely that the entire road would have been gone and extended back to the Narragansett,” Osterrieder said.

Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and other impacted municipalities have submitted damage estimates to the state following the storms, which Maine uses to appeal for FEMA assistance.


In late January, the White House granted major disaster declaration status for a powerful storm and flooding that took place in December, but so far has not done the same for the storms in January. Securing “major disaster declaration” from the federal government is the first step in unlocking federal disaster relief funds for Maine.

Route 9 near Dock Square in Kennebunkport was closed Jan. 10 due to flooding during high tide. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

If there is a major disaster declaration, then FEMA would likely reimburse repairs and replacement of public infrastructure at 75%, the state would cover 15% and local governments would cover 10%, said Megan Arsenault, the deputy director at the York County Emergency Management Agency. The exact breakdown would be announced  if President Biden issues the major disaster declaration, she said.

The governor has also pledged to ramp up disaster resilience in recent weeks. During her State of the State address in January, Gov. Janet Mills said she wants to dedicate $50 million dollars to make coastal infrastructure more secure.

In Kennebunkport, the town estimates that the damage to public infrastructure is $850,000.

Locations hit hard in Kennebunkport included some that have historically been less impacted by extreme weather, including Langsford Road, New Biddeford Road, and Cape Porpoise Square. According to a report by Town Manager Laurie Smith, one of the worst hit neighborhoods was the west end of King’s Highway. Water in that area of King’s Highway took a long time to subside due to lack of adequate drainage and the hardened ground due to frost.

Kennebunk sustained about $2 million in damage to infrastructure, public sidewalks and roads — with much of the damage concentrated on Kennebunk’s beaches. Above, a portion of the sidewalk at Gooch’s Beach is closed. Dan King photo

The Public Works Department was also forced to open manhole covers in that area to drain the water — a less than ideal solution because saltwater is harder to process through the town’s wastewater treatment system, according to Public Works Department Director Christopher Simeoni.


The Kennebunkport Chief of Police Craig Sanford told the Select Board on Feb. 8 that his department had encountered people purposefully driving around barricades, even though they were there to stop people from driving during dangerous conditions.

He said that city workers weathered the first storm fairly well, but the severity of the second one caught them off guard. The town was also hamstrung because they’re a small municipality that only has so many people for storm response.

“You run out of bodies really quick,” he said.

These $2 million and $850,000 figures do not include estimated damage to private property and businesses, which were also pummeled by the storm.

Local businesses — especially those in Kennebunkport’s Dock Square — were hit hard by the back-to-back extreme weather events.

For some, like the gallery Wendy Webster Good Fine Art, the Jan. 13 storm was the third time the business had flooded in 13 months, and for others, like the gift shop Beach Grass, it was the first time the business had flooded in decades.

Nearly 1,200 businesses submitted reports to the Maine Environmental Management Agency (MEMA) detailing the damage they sustained, which could help the state qualify for disaster relief — but it’s possible that federal relief will only go toward public infrastructure.

State lawmakers are also considering a bill that would provide $50 million in state funds to help small businesses recover. The payments would be administered through a newly created Small Business Weather Emergency Relief Program, which would receive $50 million from the state’s general fund. The bill is currently before the Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business Committee.

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