A river that flooded parts of northern Maine dropped much faster than expected, allowing hundreds of residents who fled their homes to return and assess the damage Friday, officials said.
The St. John River dropped below flood stage just two days after about 1,000 people were told to leave their homes as the water reached the highest levels ever recorded in this northern border town.
It had topped out above 30 feet, sending water pouring into Fort Kent’s downtown. The river fell to 24 feet on Friday, and the town’s earthen levee passed inspection.
Police Chief Kenneth Michaud said Main Street was reopened to traffic, and people headed back to their homes to pump out their cellars and assess damage in areas that were flooded Wednesday and Thursday. Businesses can’t open until they get clearance from the health inspector.
Gov. John Baldacci issued a formal request to President Bush for a disaster declaration for Aroostook County.
In his letter to the president, Baldacci estimated that more than 200 homes have been damaged and that 600 to 1,000 people were displaced from their homes.
Many roads and bridges were damaged by the heavy rainfall Tuesday and ensuing floods.
“I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and the affected local governments and that supplementary federal assistance is necessary,” the governor wrote.
In Fort Kent, the International Bridge connecting Fort Kent and Clair, New Brunswick, remained closed Friday, but a team from the Maine Department of Transportation and an inspector from Canada planned to inspect the bridge Saturday morning.
Across the border in Canada, floodwaters stabilized 200 miles to the south in Fredericton, where more than 600 people had to leave their homes. Military officials also considered sending a barge to rescue a herd of cows threatened by the flood in the St. John River Valley. The stranded bovines were located in Maugerville, downstream from Fredericton.
On the Net:
Maine Emergency Management Agency: http://www.state.me.us/mema
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