SKOWHEGAN — “Devastating” was the assessment Thursday by Code Enforcement Officer Randall Gray and a business owner of the flooded and torn-up parking lot at Skowhegan Plaza.

“This is the south side of town, it’s a very active shopping center, and it’s certainly a hardship,” Gray said.

Sinkholes and large heaves in the pavement remained Thursday after a drainage pipe carrying a swollen brook under U.S. Route 201 clogged with debris, sending water under and over the parking lot.

The damage came during a storm Tuesday night and all day Wednesday that dumped several inches of rain on the region, causing power outages, downed trees and some flooding. The National Weather Service in Gray reported Thursday that Augusta had 6.8 inches of rain from the storm, while Waterville had 5.6 inches.

Four stores at the Skowhegan Plaza were closed for much of the morning as officials assessed the damage and addressed how to make the parking lot usable. The businesses — New Garden Chinese Restaurant, Family Dollar, Rent-A-Center and Ginny’s health food store — reopened late in the morning. While there was no damage to the stores, owners and town officials said shoppers will have a hard time getting access.

The owner of the mini-mall, Mark Horn, of Washington state, urged the community to support the businesses.


“It’s pretty crushing,” Horn said Thursday afternoon by phone. “It’s devastating. I feel terrible for my tenants. I feel terrible for my family. Sometimes you can point to things you could have done differently. This isn’t one of those.”

Horn bought the plaza in 2013 with his wife, Linda, as a real estate investment.

“We had nothing to do with this. It came down the brook and hit us,” he said. “We couldn’t have prepared for it. It looks like we’re going to have to foot the bill for everything.”

Horn said in the meantime, he encourages area residents to continue to support the businesses in the plaza.

“It would be wonderful to see the town support them,” he said.



Pieces of waterlogged trees and other rubble littered the broken-up parking lot Thursday, but a commercial box truck that had become perched atop broken pavement during flooding Wednesday was removed Thursday morning. The truck was not damaged.

“We got about five and a half inches of rain in this area in just a very short time,” Gray said. “With the amount of debris that came down in the stream yesterday, it couldn’t handle it. With being 90 percent plugged, hydraulic pressure happened and it just came up through and all around.”

A concrete spillway from the edge of Waterville Road, which is U.S. Route 201, feeds the stream into a large box culvert made of steel that runs under the parking lot and under a building owned by New Balance Athletic Shoe Co. and finally into the Kennebec River. Gray said the 60-inch-wide culvert was installed before the New Balance building, a warehouse employing about 40 people, was built. He said such a project never would be approved today.

An engineer will have to assess the damage and determine what will need to be done, either to fix or replace what was damaged, Gray said, work for which the owner will have to find a contractor.

Skowhegan Road Commissioner Greg Dore estimated the cost to repair or replace the parking lot could top $160,000 just for the paving.

Police on Wednesday afternoon blocked off the parking lot, where Main Street and West Front Street join U.S. Route 201 and U.S. Route 2.


Gray’s office, the Highway Department and the Fire Department worked with the business owners to keep them open. Customers can use rear doors to each of the stores and New Garden.

The front portion of the parking lot closest to the stores can be used from a driveway behind the buildings, but there will be no access from Waterville Road or Island Avenue until the parking lot reopens.

“The buildings themselves are very secure,” Gray said. “There’s no damage to the buildings. They can be operational, but not as operational as normal, as they should be.”

Rick Curtis, manager of the Family Dollar store, said the water started flowing over the parking lot about 3 p.m. Wednesday. He said the store got some water just inside the front door, but nothing was damaged.

Next door at Rent-A-Center, store manager Effie Dodge, of Winslow, said the company truck that had been stranded all night Wednesday in the parking lot was hitched to a bucket loader and towed out Thursday morning.

She said there was some water by the front door of the store, but nothing serious.


“There’s no damage to our store — just the parking lot,” Dodge said. “The rug is wet, but we cleaned that up. We’re open for business.”


Virginia Jewell, owner of Ginny’s Natural Corner health food store on the plaza, said she opened Thursday morning and will reopen Friday.

“There’s just a lot of emotional stuff I have to deal with,” she said. “My grandmother passed Sunday, and I was taking today off anyway to deal with that stuff. I just had to be in here today to check the damage. Luckily for us, water didn’t come in, so I’m very thankful for that; but just coming in and seeing your parking lot looking like a war zone, it’s just very emotional.”

Jewell said she is also busy getting ready to move her business downtown. She said she couldn’t specify where because all the paperwork hasn’t been completed. She said she also was the victim of identity theft recently, and that put a big dent in her business.

“We hope to be moved sooner than later, now,” she said.


Wing Chen, from New Garden Chinese Restaurant, surveyed the damage Thursday morning with family members, wondering what was going to be done. Curtis told him all of the businesses were allowed to open and the repair work will be up to Horn, the plaza owner.

Horn said he is working by phone with town and county officials to speed up the repair process and get access open again from the main roads into the plaza. He said he has a maintenance team in Skowhegan who are his “eyes and ears” and are sending him digital photos of the damage. He said it is still too early to know what the cleanup and rebuilding will entail.

Horn said he has been told that for Somerset County to be eligible for emergency funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the cost of repairing the damage would have to be more than $2.5 million.

There’s no damage to the New Balance building, which is more than 100 years old and previously was home to Dexter Shoe Co.

On Mill Street, which is behind the building and has been closed to through traffic for several years, big rocks, stones, bricks and chunks of concrete lay scattered like beach pebbles Thursday all the way to the river’s edge.

Gray said there were other buildings in what is now the plaza parking lot, including a four-story factory that was demolished and backfilled to make the parking lot. Foundations of the former buildings were visible, exposed amid the broken pavement.


Central Maine, and particularly southern Somerset County towns, were battered by the storm from early afternoon into the evening.

Reports of fallen trees and wires, road flooding and washouts were particularly numerous in Skowhegan, Norridgewock, Madison, Fairfield, Hartland and St. Albans.

In Skowhegan, about 500 feet of Burrill Road near the Norridgewock town line was closed Thursday morning because of flooding. Two culverts on that road were ripped up by the flooding and were being replaced around noon Thursday. Sections of the road still have to be repaved where the damage occurred, but the road was reopened to traffic by 3 p.m.

A section of Russell Road, the back road to Madison, also was closed because of flooding. It, too, was reopened Thursday afternoon.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367


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