Landslide Blocking Presumpscot River In Westbrook Threatens A Flash Flood

Sep 16, 2020

A landslide blocking the Presumpscot River in Westbrook is threatening a flash flood in Cumberland County.

The land started moving around 9:39 a.m. Wednesday.

Chris Wilson is the CEO of Les Wilson & Sons, located a little downstream from the Sappi Paper Mill. He says his workers saw trees moving, then falling, and then the land disappeared.

About an acre of dirt and rock and trees flowed toward the Presumpscot River, creating a kind of instant dam.

“There is earth that has shifted and trees that are falling on an ongoing basis, and it’s dangerous for people to be in the area,” says Westbrook Mayor Michael Foley.

Foley says residents should avoid the area and allow emergency workers to address the situation. He called a state of emergency for the city Wednesday afternoon.

The National Weather Service in Gray has issued a flash flood watch for coastal Cumberland county through 11 p.m. The service says that sudden changes in river levels are possible downstream if the obstructions break.

Local, state and federal emergency officials responded to the scene. Late in the afternoon, officials said that some water was starting to get through the obstruction. 

But the weather service says the danger remains and is keeping the flood watch in effect.

“We're not sure if the gauge will continue to drop or if it's just a temporary drop and it's a fluid situation, and if the landslide were to give out suddenly there could be a sudden rush of water downstream of the landslide, which could create a flash flood,” says National Weather Service meteorologist Hunter Tubbs.

There were were no reported injuries and no impacts to roads, according to the Associated Press.

Nora Flaherty contributed to this report.

This post will be updated.