Friday, April 13, 2007

Remembering the Great Flood of 1987

I've been too busy to post this before now, but earier this month we passed the 20th anniversary of the Great Flood of 1987. Compare this photo to the header photo to see the difference in water levels. As fate would have it, I was actually in Portland for this entire week, so I missed the whole thing. I was doing an independent study week at WCSH in Portland with two friends of mine. If I remember correctly, they actually wanted to take us to our town with them to report on the flooding, but there was no way in, or out of the town of Rumford, which was hit even harder than Lewiston/Auburn because of ice jams, so really what I remember of the whole thing was photos and news footage.

On April 1, 1987, four days of rain combined with melting snow to create the worst flooding of the Androscoggin River since 1936. The river crested at a height of 23.66 feet, ten feet above flood stage and high enough to send water surging just below street level at the Longley Bridge. Although the flood did heavy damage in low-lying areas, no injuries were reported. The worst flooding in the state was in Augusta along the Kennebec River, which crested at 36 feet. (Sources: Lewiston Daily Sun, Lewiston Evening Journal, April 1 & 2, 1987.)

From a recent story on the flood:
The April Fools' Day flood of 1987 left many parts of Maine in ruins. In the western part of the state, where the Androscoggin River rose to 24 feet, destruction was widespread.

Two bridges washed away in Strong and another was destroyed in Farmington. In Wilton, a portion of a fire station crumbled beneath the might of rushing water.

In Lewiston and Auburn, the bridges withstood the rising river though aerial photographs showed that the water had risen right up to the deck of the Longley and South bridges. Powerful, churning water made its way into Heritage Park, covering park benches before the river receded.

In the Twin Cities, chaos came in many forms. Entire neighborhoods, like Little Canada at Lincoln and Cedar streets, had to be evacuated. Families took refuge in motels and looked to the American Red Cross for help.

In Auburn, Higgins Sports Center was among several buildings flooded when the Androscoggin rose over North River Road.

The river roared at 102,000 cubic square feet per second, causing some to flee in panic while others stood along river banks to witness the phenomenon. At Great Falls between Lewiston and Auburn, large crowds gathered as ferocious currents thundered over the falls. For two days, Great Falls was one of the most popular attractions in the area.

Homes and businesses were flooded or knocked down by relentless water that surged over riverbanks. Long sections of major throughways, such as Route 136 in Durham, were swallowed up by the rising river. Pavement on other roads washed away. (Source:, April 1, 2007.)


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