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  • Tammy L Wells

Sunday storm made it a triple whammy on the coast - Communities reeling from January storms now cope with damage from a third

ALFRED, Maine – Another king tide peaked just before noon on Sunday, March 10, swamping and fracturing roadways, destructing sand dunes, flooding private properties, and creating more headaches for those who take care of the public infrastructure and people who own homes, businesses, and land along the shore.


“Some damage was different and some, where temporary repairs had been made, were totally wiped out again,” said York County Emergency Management Agency Director Art Cleaves.


Images from the Sunday storm show flying ocean spray at high tide, flooded backyards and front yards and the ocean barreling down a seaside street.


Photographs show water flooding yards and homes in Old Orchard Beach, new road damage in Kennebunk, repeat road damage in Wells and a swamped vehicle. Drone shots near the Narragansett along Kennebunk’s Beach Avenue show a high tide just over the seawall – and nearly fully flooded back yard.


Kennebunk officials in a social media posting said the Sunday storm worsened coastal areas already damaged in January and also opened up a section of roadway at Beach Avenue and Boothby Road – one of the new locations referred to by Cleaves.


While the full estimates of cost to deal with the destruction of public infrastructure from Sunday’s storm along York County’s coastal municipalities was not complete on Monday afternoon, some figures had flowed into York County EMA. By Sunday evening, just hours after the storm had abated, around $500,000 in damage was totaled in three communities, said Cleaves, and more is expected as the week progresses.


There are nine coastal municipal municipalities in York County – Kittery, York, Ogunquit, Wells, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Biddeford, Saco and Old Orchard Beach.


March 11 marked the third storm in 61 days - a triple whammy. It came just about 72 hours after municipal, county and state officials got together to talk about coastal resilience and how emergency management agencies can help with public infrastructure – and through certain programs, with mitigation that can help communities take measures toward preventing a repeat.


Cleaves said he expects to hear this week on the status of Maine Gov. Janet Mills’ request to President Joe Biden for a disaster declaration for the Jan. 10 and 13 storms, which would free up Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to help communities. For those two storms alone, estimates of damage to the public infrastructure in York County – roads, beaches, culverts, dunes, and other municipal-owned entities – came in at $20 million.

Estimate of damage to private homes and businesses is undetermined, but more than 400 folks submitted reports of damage to York County Emergency Management Agency, and through the same declaration, funding – called individual assistance – if approved, could help.


Municipal officials prior to the Sunday event advised folks to stay off coastal roads and if they lived there and planned to evacuate, to do so before the 11:20 a.m. high tide. By late afternoon, Biddeford, which like other municipalities had closed oceanside roads to traffic early, announced most would be open. A damaged section of Fortunes Rocks was due to open the following day. The roadway was also damaged in the Jan. 10 and 13 storms, and had just completely reopened on Feb. 29, with temporary repairs to some portions.


Kennebunk officials said the Sunday storm worsened coastal areas already damaged in January and crumpled a new section of roadway at Beach Street and Boothby Road, reducing a section to one lane.


Wells Police provided video on social media so folks could get a sense of like it was like at the shore as the sea rushed down the roadways. Another photo shows a wide portion of the tarmac gone.


“Storms like we saw in January are not uncommon – we usually have high winds and flooding twice a year,” noted York County EMA Deputy Director Megan Arsenault. “What makes these different was the intensity and the impacts. We were seeing water coming over (from the ocean) three to four to five streets back.”


She said folks looking for updates should check the county’s recovery website  https://www.yorkcountymaine.gov/recovery


In all, damage in Biddeford alone from the Jan. 10 and 13 storms is estimated at somewhere between $2 and $3 million, in nine locations along the coast, crumbling seawalls, roads and dunes, Biddeford Emergency Management Director Roby Fecteau said.


He said the intensity of the two January storms was comparable to the 1978 storms that devastated the same locations.


Fecteau said the city’s next steps will include interviewing and selecting an engineering firm from among applicants to review the damage and develop plans, including mitigation.

Saco Public Works director Patrick Fox on Thursday, prior to Sunday’s storm, estimated the city damage at close to $300,000 from Jan. 10 and 13, including dune erosion and a couple of roadways in Camp Ellis that sustained major damage.


Speakers at the March 7 Coastal Resilience Convening session aimed at municipalities and organized by York County EMA and Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission discussed public assistance and mitigation opportunities – some which may be available through FEMA public assistance as a percentage add-on to an allocation, and others that are separate.


“Once you have an idea (for mitigation) reach out,” Heather Dumais, Maine’s Hazard Mitigation Officer said. “If you need help and don’t know where to go, reach out.”


York County EMA Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Chris McCall reminded municipal representatives that the days ahead will be long and will take time and patience, and that York County EMA and its state and federal counterparts can help. “We know it has been a very challenging two months,” McCall said.


Photos:

1) Streets in several Old Orchard Beach locations were flooded during  the storm on Sunday March 10 - the third storm in 2024 that resulted in damage up and down the York County coastline.

2) The ocean rushes over portions of Beach Avenue in Kennebunk on Sunday, March 10.

3) A drone photo  of Beach Avenue near the Narragansett in Kennebunk on Sunday shows the ocean at high tide and flooding.






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