November 1, 2012

Farmington's Whittier Road region's only major superstorm casualty

Power restored to most following superstorm Sandy; state's resources shifted to hard-hit areas to the south

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

On Wednesday, a fragile road was further threatened by the aftereffects of superstorm Sandy even as power was restored to the region.

click image to enlarge

The Whittier Road in Farmington is now closed to traffic, due to a nearby unstable and eroding Sandy River embankment.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Farmington fire chief Terry Bell, in back, Public Works Director Denis Castonguay, left, and Franklin County Emergency Management Director Tim Hardy monitor the rising Sandy River in Farmington on Tuesday, at the site of erosion of a steep bank beside the Whittier Road.

Staff file photo by David Leaming

Additional Photos Below

With most of Maine emerging from the storm without major damage, statewide resources are being redistributed to other states.

Nearly all those who lost power had service restored by Wednesday afternoon, according to Central Maine Power Co.

The number of outages, which peaked at 165,000, had shrunk to 11,000 by noon Wednesday, according to the report, with nearly all of those in York, Cumberland and Lincoln counties. In Franklin County, the report showed the number of outages peaked at 2,589, with power restored to all customers by noon.

By late afternoon Wednesday, 3,600 CMP customers remained without power, spokesman John Carroll said.

"We restored 155,000 customers in 48 hours and a good part of that was not only late at night, but during the storm itself," Carroll said.

Tom Hawley at the National Weather Service office in Gray said the storm had been downgraded to a simple low pressure system, but was taking it's time leaving the state. He said rain and scattered showers can be expected in central Maine through Friday.

Rainfall totals were measured from the storm at about two inches in Skowhegan, 2.57 inches in New Portland in rural Somerset County, 2.1 inches in Winslow and 1.74 inches in Augusta.

Meanwhile, as the high water levels of the Sandy River in Farmington recede, the exposed riverbank is showing signs of new damage, further threatening Whittier Road.

The heavily traveled road was closed to traffic Tuesday amid concerns that erosion on the nearby riverbank could cause it to fall into the river.

"When the water recedes fully, we'll have to see if things are stable or not," Farmington Town Manager Richard Davis said.

Davis made the decision to close the road Tuesday afternoon.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the water level had gone down by about a foot from its high mark, revealing new cracks in the ground, Davis said.

Davis said that the soil in the submerged part of the bank is saturated with water. As the river level drops, the water runs out of the bank, carrying some soil with it, leaving behind the cracks.

As the water level continues to drop, Davis said the town will monitor the situation and decide whether the road can be reopened.

Since August 2011, when Tropical Storm Irene caused a 50-foot-wide, 300-foot-long chunk of the bank to fall into the river, ongoing erosion has steadily shrunk the distance between the bank and the road.

The erosion will eventually reach the road, causing it to collapse into the river but it is uncertain whether that will happen before the town is able to implement a bank stabilization project next year.

The town wanted to stabilize the bank this year, but the federal government withheld permission and funding, citing concerns about the possible impact on the endangered Atlantic salmon, which uses the river as a spawning ground.

With hurricane damage throughout the rest of Maine relatively light, Gov. Paul LePage sent a team of forest rangers to help with recovery efforts in New York City, according to an announcement from his office.

LePage announced Wednesday afternoon that nine members of the Maine Forest Rangers Incident Management Team would spend two weeks working in New York after a request for help.

Other deployments are possible, he said, as affected states determine what their needs are.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling -- 861-9287
mhhetling@centralmaine.com

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Erosion is seen along the Sandy River in Farmington. Town officials fear it could threaten nearby Whittier Road.

Contributed photo

  


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