Water rescues begin as southern Maine facing high winds, outages, storm warning

A wave crashes over a car traveling along Beach Avenue in Kennebunk on Friday morning. Even more than two hours before high tide, the waves were wreaking havoc along the coast. Casco Bay lines announced. It had suspended ferry service to Peaks Island due to the weather. Gregory Rec/Staff photographer

Maine’s coastal communities are under both flood and high wind warnings, just a day ahead of one of the busiest holiday weekends for travel.

Flights are being canceled, Casco Bay Lines’ ferry service is suspending trips and power was out for more than 61,000 Central Maine Power users statewide as of 11 am Friday, including roughly 25,900 in Cumberland County and 19,000 in York County. As the high tide rolled in around 10:30 am, emergency responders were performing water rescues in York County, where roads were flooding along the coast.

In Old Orchard Beach, the fire department confirmed fire chiefs were performing a water rescue on a flooded home. Wells police Capt. Kevin Chabot helped rescue a driver on Mile Road, according to a Twitter posts from the agency.

The entire region is under a warning for high wind, with wind gusts of 55 to 70 miles per hour along the immediate coast, decreasing to 55 to 65 miles per hour going farther inland.

The region also is expecting at least two inches of rainfall. Combined with melting snow farther from the coast, there will be flooding on the roadways. Once the storms pull away, Saturday morning temperatures will plummet into the teens, causing any water out there to freeze and roads to become slick.

The number of reported Central Maine Power customers experiencing an outage more than doubled from 7:30 am to 9:00 am and has continued to grow, according to Central Maine Power. The company will be tracking power outages throughout the day.

CMP customers should call 800-696-1000 to report an outage and to find out when their power could be restored.

With widespread outages, CMP said, restoration of power could take several days, and outages could continue into Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Adam Desrosier, CMP’s vice president of electric operations, said the utility company has more than 300 contractor crews and 220 tree crews from Canada and as far south as Georgia in position to respond to power outages. Many of those crews remained in Maine after helping restore power during last weekend’s storm.

On the water, conditions are already deteriorating: The National Weather Service reports that extremely strong winds could lead to capsized vessels and make it harder for mariners to see.

State offices were closed Friday by the governor’s order, a harbinger of the potential damage this particular storm could cause.

Casco Bay Lines, which provides island ferry service from Portland, also suspended service Friday morning because of high winds. They plan to update information on the suspension at noon.

Forecasters are calling for temperatures in the 50-degree range for most of Friday. But a sharp drop in temperatures Friday night, after winds start to subside, has emergency responders and forecasters worried.

“Today’s storm could cause major issues on the roads to include hydroplaning, debris and visibility issues that could seriously impact driving conditions,” said Maine State Police spokesperson Shannon Moss in an email Friday. “We encourage people to only drive if needed and if you have to be out on the roads to please use caution.”

Flooding on the causeway between Cousins ​​and Littlejohn islands in Yarmouth at high tide around 10 am Friday. Photo by Steve Ericson

Wind chill also will be a factor on Saturday, though it won’t be as windy. It may feel like it’s 3 degrees in Portland and 8 degrees below zero in Rangeley.

Heavy rain and snow melt in the western sections of Maine will begin late Thursday night, leading to the potential for widespread flooding and road closures. Precipitation will begin as snow in the mountains before changing to rain late Friday morning. It will rain most of the day.

Rainfall totals will vary across the state. Portland could see two inches of rain, while inland areas could see anywhere from 2.5 to 4 inches of rain. Rivers could flood as a result of the snowmelt caused by such heavy rainfall.

Coastal flooding is another major cause of concern. The weather service said an unusually high astronomical tide along with storm surge will cause moderate to major coastal flooding. Large waves and strong seas will make it dangerous to be in a boat on the ocean.

Warming centers will be opening in several Maine counties Friday. MEMA identified three warming centers on its website Thursday evening, including the South Portland Community Center on Nelson Road, which opens at 6 am Friday; the Naples town office; and the Lovell fire station. To find a location near your home, you can also dial 2-1-1.

Winter storms across the country have already disrupted holiday travel. According to FlightAware, a website that provides real time flight information, more than 1,200 flights were canceled Thursday and close to 400 flight delays have been reported.

At least nine flights leaving Portland for Florida, New York and Washington, DC, were canceled by 8:30 am The Portland Jetport is advising travelers to contact their airline for more current flight information.

This story will be updated.

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