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Counties estimate millions in damages from early May rainstorm

A tributary of the Passagassawakeag River flooding over Head of the Tide Road in Belfast on Monday.
Murray Carpenter
Maine Public
A tributary of the Passagassawakeag River flooding over Head of the Tide Road in Belfast on Monday.

Maine's western counties estimate last week's rainstorm will cost them millions in damages to clean up after hard rains and winds downed power lines and washed out roads.

The damage estimates vary greatly across the state. Hundreds of roads were closed as culverts failed or the water washed out the gravel underneath, creating sinkholes.

Somerset County towns reported about $1.3 million damages related to the storm. That's six times the amount needed for the county to request federal disaster aid, said EMA director Michael Smith. Oxford County saw just over of $2 million in damages.

Franklin County Emergency Management Director Amanda Simoneau said the county's threshold for disaster aid is $129,000. Towns there submitted damage estimates of nearly $1.4 million. She says most roads are open as they are being repaired, but might be reduced to single lanes.

"In some of the northern areas have a lot of gravel roads. So it's pretty easy for that influx of water to magically wash them all away," she said. "Phillips, in particular, that morning had reported that about 75 to 80% of their roads were impassable."

Other counties reported little to no damage. Only two towns in Aroostook County put in estimates. York County EMA director Arthur Cleaves said a few northern towns put in reports, but the county has a higher damage threshold to request aid because of its larger population. The request put in were well below the county's $940,000 threshold, he said.

The estimates are not always a good indicator of damage sustained. Washington County EMA director Lisa Hancom said just one town put in for aid. But some municipalities do not bother to make requests because they doubt they will get it, she said. Hancom said she tries to encourage requests rather than have towns bear the burden alone.

A spokesperson for the Maine state emergency management agency said it does not have official estimates for the state overall. FEMA will work with the state to verify assessments and determine if a major disaster should be declared. Maine has 30 days from the last day of the storm to request a declaration.

Reporter Caitlin Andrews came to Maine Public in 2023 after nearly eight years in print journalism. She hails from New Hampshire originally.