Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

December 19, 2023

Flooding, high winds rip through Maine, and it's not even winter yet

storm damage Peter Van Allen A tree fell on wires and across Route 88 in Falmouth during the Dec. 18 storm.
high tide Peter Van Allen At high tide during the Dec. 18 storm, the Royal River was nearly as high as the boats that had been stored for the winter.

Heavy rain, winds over 60 mph and seas of 20 feet or more rampaged through Maine on Monday, days before the start of winter and the Christmas holiday weekend.

Power outages affected thousands of customers in Maine. As of 4 a.m. on Tuesday, Versant reported 89,000 customers without power. At 9 a.m., Central Maine Power said 320,000 customers were still experiencing outages. The company said it expected "a multiday restoration effort," and reported that it had dispatched 400 line crews and 200 tree crews to address damage.

“The damage our crews are seeing is extensive, and we have been assisting local emergency management agencies with hundreds of calls for assistance to clear roads and make fallen power lines safe,” said Jon Breed, spokesperson for CMP.

“Because of incredibly high sustained wind speeds, many of our crews are unable to utilize bucket trucks and begin making repairs. As winds subside, we will work to restore power to our customers as quickly and as safely as possible until all customers are restored.”

Falling tree limbs closed roads and knocked down power lines throughout Maine, including on Route 88 in Falmouth, where much of the Foreside artery was closed Monday afternoon.

All Maine state offices were closed Tuesday "to allow time for power restoration and road clean up following Monday’s storm," the state said in a press release. 

On the coast, high seas affected ferry lines and other nautical traffic. A NOAA buoy 12 nautical miles southeast of Portland registered waves as high as 21 feet. Coastal towns and islands were battered by erosion, with some of the highest winds coinciding with the mid-afternoon high tide. Small-craft advisories for much of the Maine coast remained in effect through Wednesday morning.`

The Monhegan Boat Line, which connects Port Clyde to the island of Monhegan, canceled boats on Monday as well as Tuesday, it posted on Facebook.

The Wells Police Department posted a photo of a beach walkway that was submerged by high waters and a video of waves crashing over the oceanfront Webhannet Drive

In Augusta, part of the scaffolding on the Burton M. Cross building collapsed, though no injuries were reported, Fox22 (WFVX) reported. Elsewhere in Augusta, parts of the Front Street parking lot were closed because of flooding on the Kennebec River, the Augusta Police Department reported on Facebook.

In Auburn on Monday afternoon, the city closed many facilities, including Auburn City Hall, Norway Savings Bank Arena, Auburn Recreation Department and the Ingersoll Arena Turf Facility. First responders and the public works department remained on duty.

In Rumford, police reported Tuesday morning that the surging Androscoggin River had flooded homes and some major roads. 

In Bangor, the police department took to Facebook to remind drivers that, amid power outages, they must stop at disabled stop lights. 

"YOU MUST stop at intersections. Stop all the way. Take turns. It works well," the Bangor police posted Monday. "The right-of-way rules you were supposed to learn at driver's training camp tell you that it's a give and take at intersections when the lights are out. Please stop, look, and proceed only when it's your turn."

Ski areas pummeled

Going into the key holiday weekend, Maine's ski areas were hit hard by heavy rain, closing at least three ski areas and throwing a challenge into planned opening days. 

In the mountains, a main road into the Sunday River Resort was washed out, forcing the ski area to close on Tuesday. 

"Due to damage caused by yesterday's storm, ski operations at Sunday River Resort will be closed today, Dec. 19. We are actively assessing roads, trails, and systems in the aftermath of five inches of rain received in a short period of time," the resort reported on its website.

"Ski operations will be reopened as quickly as possible and snowmaking will resume once necessary repairs are made."

Sugarloaf in Carrabassett Valley also reported that it has suspended ski and ride operations for today. Damage was reported on roads, infrastructure on the mountain and around the campus, it said on Instagram. 

Saddleback, in Rangeley, also reported that it will be closed Tuesday, though it expects to fire up the snow guns with colder temps predicted later this week. 

Other resorts, like Pleasant Mountain and Mount Abram, had planned to open later this week, in advance of the holiday weekend. 

The aftermath

By early Tuesday — the morning after the storm — the wind was calmer across most of Maine and the rain had stopped. 

The city of Portland sent out a news release saying a cruise ship is being diverted away from the storm and will dock here on Wednesday. 

"The MSC Meraviglia, which visited Portland twice during the regular 2023 cruise ship season, will return this Wednesday, Dec. 20, for an unusual off-season visit," the city said in a press release.

"The ship’s original seven-day itinerary was changed due to a severe storm hitting Florida and the Bahamas — the same storm that is now hitting Maine. The ship was set to depart Brooklyn, N.Y., on Saturday before heading to Port Canaveral, Nassau, and MSC’s private island destination in the Bahamas, Ocean Cay.

"Instead of sailing south into the storm, the vessel left Brooklyn on Saturday and arrived in Boston Sunday, where it will remain until the storm has passed and then head north to Portland for a 7 a.m.  arrival on Wednesday. On Thursday, the ship will be in Saint John, New Brunswick, and after a day at sea on Friday, the vessel will return to Brooklyn on Saturday morning where the voyage will conclude."

In a letter addressed to the ship's passengers, MSC said: “To ensure the safety and well-being of everyone onboard, we will sail to New England and Canada instead, where we expect to encounter fairer weather conditions that will allow us to offer the pleasant cruise experience that you expect.”

Sign up for Enews

Related Content


Order a PDF