AUGUSTA — Shawn McLaughlin sat at the darkened bar Wednesday at State Lunch, with his laptop and cellphone.

Behind the closed sign and two levels below the dining room of his restaurant and bar at 217 Water St., McLaughlin’s crew was working to clean the mess left behind after the waters of the Kennebec River surged into the basements of buildings from Augusta to Gardiner, before subsiding Wednesday.

McLaughlin was working to find some professional assistance to help his crew members, who had been working around the clock since flood waters began flowing into the building’s lowest level, one level below the kitchen and two levels below the restaurant.

While no damage totals have been tallied following widespread flooding, property and business owners and municipal officials throughout the region are working to assess the damage left by the historic storm that dumped between 3 and 6 inches of rain into the Kennebec River system during a 24-hour period Sunday and Monday.

Detritus from the receding Kennebec River flood waters is piled up Wednesday at Granite City Park in downtown Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Vanessa Corson, the public information officer for the Maine Emergency Management Agency, said Wednesday that MEMA was working with county and local officials to conduct initial damage assessments across the state.

“The initial damage assessment deadline has been established as Wednesday, May 10,” Corson said. “The agency expects to know more at that time and the weeks beyond as far as what the situation is statewide.”


In Hallowell, where the brunt of the flooding was the worst, people were still pausing Wednesday at the head of Wharf Street to watch the rushing water, even though the water level had dropped significantly since Tuesday.

Interim Chief Christopher Giles of the Hallowell Police Department said MEMA officials were in Hallowell on Tuesday, just one of several groups of people to spend time assessing the flooding and the damage, including propane tanks that were floating and power boxes that were submerged.

The top photograph of Gardiner Landing was taken Tuesday and the bottom photograph was taken Wednesday, after the Kennebec River floodwaters receded in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“I did have to go down to the river and use my hockey stick to fish out a couple of chairs,” Giles said. “We were losing a couple of the Adirondack chairs.”

The city sets out Adirondack chairs on the bulkhead at Granite Park that had been moved when the park was closed after the river began rising.

In Gardiner, the city provided a roll-off dumpster for the downtown buildings adjacent to the Arcade parking lot that was underwater Tuesday. The parking lot is bordered by Cobbosseecontee Stream, which feeds into the Kennebec River not far from there. When the water level in the Kennebec is elevated, that streamflow has no place to go and the lot tends to flood.

Melissa Lindley, the public information officer for the city of Gardiner, said the dumpster is solely for the use of the affected property and business owners to dispose of flood-damaged items.


“It was actually an idea that was shared with us from some of the business owners,” Lindley said. “We’re hoping it can stay through the weekend, as long as we don’t start to get general trash into it.”

Jeremy Abram was among the business owners to make use of the dumpster, once he learned it was there. His own dumpster was already filled.

The top photograph of Gardiner Landing was taken Tuesday and the bottom photograph was taken Wednesday, after the Kennebec River floodwaters receded in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

He opened Gardiner Hardware on Water Street three years ago, but because he grew up in Gardiner, he is aware of the flooding that can happen, including the 1987 flood, the largest in Maine’s history.

Abram said he moved his car out of the lot at 10:30 a.m. Monday, two hours before the notices to move the vehicles went up.

“It was probably around 6 o’clock when the water started coming up over the bank,” he said.

And by shortly after midnight, the lot was covered and the water kept rising. The high water mark on the buildings, indicated by a line of silt that was left behind, was about 2 1/2 feet.


Abram said he did not lose much, other than the labor to clear out whatever the water damaged. The oil tank, visible from the back door of the building, did not float away.

In Somerset County, the towns of Skowhegan and Mercer were among the communities believed to have been hit hardest by flooding, according to Michael Smith, director of Somerset County Emergency Management Agency. He said the county’s preliminary assessments would get underway Thursday morning.

“I think we definitely will reach the county threshold as far as the disaster declaration goes,” Smith said.

In Augusta, where the city’s Public Works Department was clearing out debris left along Front Street in preparation for reopening the area, McLaughlin was continuing to make arrangements to reopen his business.

In the three years the restaurant has been open, the river has risen, but nowhere near like this week.

McLaughlin said he had set out sandbags at the back door, expecting some water might seep through that could be squeegeed out.


“We went home for a couple of hours and came back and there was 2 feet of water there,” he said.

Traffic slows next to a washout Wednesday that partially closed River Road after the Kennebec River, left, flooded in Norridgewock. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

By then, it was too late to shift supplies up a flight to the kitchen level, and he found himself at 3 a.m. standing in 2 feet of cold water with his chef trying to clear out what they could.

Now, he is waiting for delivery of some equipment and a part for his water heater, which he’ll need to reopen, perhaps as soon as this weekend.

“My biggest concern is having these guys working every day,” McLaughlin said. “I don’t like not having them on payroll and not having a place open for them to work.” 

Municipal employees scrape mud with skid-steer loaders Wednesday at the Front Street parking lot after Kennebec River floodwaters receded in downtown Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

McLaughlin’s neighbors on Water Street have been stopping by to check in, offer help and drop off coffee and food for him and his staff members.

“Everybody’s safe and my team working hard to get us back up and running,” he said. “It is what is. It takes some perspective. There are worse things in the world.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.