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Updated: December 23, 2022

Pre-Christmas storm wreaks havoc on travel and business in Maine

Peter Van Allen Custom House Wharf in Portland was partly submerged during the winter storm of Dec. 23, 2022.

Heavy winds and rain raged across Maine Friday in a pre-Christmas storm that was sparking some flight cancellations at the state's two biggest airports as well as power outages.

On Portland's East End, waves crashed over piers and breakwaters, with winds gusting over 50 mph.

All state offices are closed today.

Peter Van Allen
High winds and dangerous conditions forced Casco Bay Ferry Service to suspend operations Friday morning.

Casco Bay Ferry Service alerted commuters that it had suspended all ferry traffic to the islands as of 7:45 a.m. Friday. 

State of Maine offices were previously scheduled to close early today at noon in observance of the holiday.

The National Weather Service has warned of heavy rain and snow melt in western Maine to lead to potential widespread flooding with numerous road closures possible, and warned of possible erosion along the coast with potential damage to roads on exposed low-lying shorelines. 

"We want to be sure that Maine people are safe heading into the holiday weekend," Gov. Janet Mills said in Thursday's announcement. "I continue to strongly urge folks to prepare for this storm, to take precautions, especially when traveling, and to check in on your family, friends and neighbors."

Air travel 

The storm, named Elliott, was already causing disruptions for air travelers.

"We have 56 total arriving and departing flights scheduled for today with 5,910 seats,” Paul Bradbury, airport director at the Portland International Jetport, told Mainebiz, "At this time we have 18 cancellations, which is 32% of flights. This morning, departing flights to Baltimore and Detroit were cancelled, but other departures to New York, Atlanta, D.C., Philadelphia, Columbus, Newark, and Charlotte all departed."

The situation is similar at Bangor International Airport, according to airport director Tony Caruso.

"The airlines have only cancelled a few flights at this point, but we expect more as the storm progresses through our region," Caruso said this morning. "We have been advising travelers that if they need to rebook, please contact your airline directly. Many are already waiving change fees."

The airport is also advising passengers to download the app of the carrier with which they are flying to get timely updates and information, and not to travel with wrapped gifts since they could be opened for security purposes.

Road travel

As far as road travel is concerned, the Maine Department of Transportation "is not hearing much yet," said Maine DOT spokesman Paul Merrill.

As of around noon, Central Maine Power Co was reporting 37,665 outages in Cumberland County, along with outages in Androscoggin, Franklin and Hancock counties. Versant was also reporting outages in several towns. 

In the Bar Harbor region, the temperature was expected to be warm, rising above 50 degrees F, with occasional wind gusts over 50 mph. Acadia National Park closed part of its Park Loop road on Mount Desert Island and the Schoodic Loop Road at Frazer Point in Winter Harbor until further notice, and warned folks going down to the shore to witness the powerful wave action that, as beautiful as the heavy seas could be, they were also dangerous. As recently as September, a Massachusetts woman was rescued after she was swept off the rocks at a popular viewing spot called Thunder Hole. 

Bangor’s city agencies were warning that high tides could impact the downtown region, especially in the area of Kenduskeag Plaza. 

Penobscot Island Air in Owls Head, which serves Maine and its islands, said it would suspend flight operations until Dec. 26.

Peter Van Allen
On the Friday before Christmas, amid high winds, rain and high tide, Harbor Fish Market was doing a booming business.










The show goes on

In Portland, the combination of gusty winds from the east and high tide at 10:08 a.m., some Old Port streets were under water. 

Peter Van Allen
A worker wades across Custom House Wharf amid Friday's storm.

On Custom House Wharf, which juts into Casco Bay and features businesses like Sea Bags, Harbor Fish Market and the Porthole Pub, workers scrambled to move cars out of flooded areas. 

Yet, on the Friday before Christmas, the Harbor Fish Market was open — and bustling with activity, despite more than a foot of water on the wharf street in front of it. 

Commercial Street was also busy, with a smattering of raincoat-clad shoppers and trucks unloading goods at restaurants and pubs.


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