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Maine governor tells residents to stay off the roads as some rivers continue rising after storm

Associated Press

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A river that runs through Maine’s capital city has risen to levels not seen in decades in the aftermath of a heavy storm, and the state’s governor urged people in heavily impacted areas to avoid travel Wednesday.

People across the northeastern U.S. were still mopping up after the major pre-Christmas storm dumped torrential rains and brought damaging winds from Pennsylvania to Maine, as some rivers in the region rose even higher. Some of the worst damage was in Vermont and Maine, where hundreds of thousands of people still lacked power.

At least five people in East Coast states were killed in the storms. In Maine, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills planned to address the state while emergency managers tended to dozens of road closures.

The Kennebec River, which runs through Augusta, and the Sandy, Swift, Carrabassett and Androscoggin rivers were all seeing higher water levels than typical, leading to damage and closures, the Maine Department of Transportation said.

“Flooding continues to be a serious risk in many areas of the state. I cannot stress this enough – if you live in an area that is hard hit, please stay off the roads as much as possible and stay away from flooded areas, including flooded roadways,” Mills said.

The storm slammed the East Coast earlier in the week. More than 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain fell in parts of New Jersey and northeastern Pennsylvania, and portions of several other states got more than 4 inches (10 centimeters), according to the National Weather Service. Utility crews worked to restore power to hundreds of thousands of customers after the powerful storm. Wind gusts reached nearly 70 mph (113 kph) along the southern New England shoreline.

Mills declared a civil state of emergency for most of the state, noting the storm had “caused significant flooding and infrastructure damage, including to the state’s federal-aid highways.”

The arrival of the storm just before Christmas complicated – and in some cases threatened to cancel – holiday plans for many New Englanders. In South Berwick, Jessica Hyland was relieved when her power finally snapped back on Wednesday morning.

“I was on my way to mild to moderate hysteria,” she said. “We don’t even have a tree.”

The storms also disrupted the winter skiing season in northern New England. Sugarloaf in Maine, one of the most popular resorts in the area, said it hoped to reopen Thursday.

“We’ve suffered some damage to roads and infrastructure on mountain and around campus and will take (Wednesday) to reassess for resuming daily operations,” representatives for Sugarloaf said via social media.

Deaths from the storm were reported in Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and Maine.

Some towns in Vermont, which had suffered major flooding from a storm in July, were seeing more flood damage. Five months after flooding inundated Vermont’s capital, water entered the basements of some downtown Montpelier businesses as the city monitored the level of the Winooski River. Sandbags were back out on the streets, just in case they flooded.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said that although waters were receding — and the damage was not as severe as that from the July storm — it was hard on residents still recovering from the earlier flooding. No deaths related to the storm were reported in Vermont.

“Seeing homes and businesses surrounded by water once again has been heartbreaking,” Scott told reporters Tuesday. “I can’t imagine the toll that has on anyone.”

Article Topic Follows: AP National

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