Maine is beginning to clean up following a powerful spring Nor’easter that recently hit our state with heavy rain and high winds. This terrible storm, the worst natural disaster to strike Maine since the Ice Storm of 1998, caused massive storm surges, astronomical high tides, and inland and coastal flooding that left behind a trail of destruction from York to Washington County. According to the Maine Emergency Management Agency, at one point during the storm, more than 285,000 homes were without electricity.
|Senator Susan Collins represents the State of Maine in the U.S. Senate.|
The state estimates that it will cost at least $25 million to repair all of the damage. Along with our entire state’s delegation, I have requested that the Administration rapidly approve the Governor’s request for federal disaster assistance on behalf of the 13 counties severely impacted by the storm. As Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, I was pleased that David Paulison, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), accepted my invitation to come to Maine and see some of the damage first-hand and determine how the federal government can assist. We were also grateful that Roger Garland, Director of Programs and Policies in Disaster Assistance at the Small Business Administration, was also able to accompany us, at Senator Snowe’s request, and get a personal sense of how that agency can better assist small business owners in their recovery efforts.
We began the day on the Portland waterfront where local city, fire, and emergency management officials updated us on the damage. We heard stories of roads that were damaged and even completely washed out. Tens of thousands of families in Cumberland, Sagadahoc, and up and down the coast, were left without electricity for several days and many were forced to leave their homes and find refuge in local shelters that were established. Piers along the Portland waterfront, and the waterfront walking trail, also sustained severe damage.
Our next stop brought us to Camp Ellis and Ferry Beach in Saco: two locations that often bear the brunt of coastal storms and this storm was no exception. Here, we were joined by Colonel Curtis Thalkin, District Engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers. During the height of the storm, several seasonal homes along the oceanfront were devastated. In addition, many homeowners in the area are still dealing with flooded basements. I have long been concerned with the safety and well-being of the people of Camp Ellis and the severe erosion being caused by a jetty, built by the Army Corps, more than 100 years ago. Earlier this year, Senator Snowe and I introduced the Camp Ellis Beach Restoration Act to ensure that the Army Corps has the resources and direction necessary to fully protect Camp Ellis in the future. I am pleased that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee recently voted to authorize $20 million to help fund this restoration project. I believe that it is critical that Administrator Paulison, and Colonel Thalkin, saw this damage with their own eyes and that they will help us as we continue our efforts to address this problem.
In Kennebunk, we toured the area along Beach Avenue, one of the hardest hit areas of town. The sea wall along Gooch’s Beach was destroyed and the road it used to protect remains closed to traffic. The damage is incredible. We also heard from residents who live along the Mousam River and heard the stories of business owners who have to endure severe floods for the second time in less than a year. It is a terrible hardship.
In Alfred, we met with local emergency management officials who worked literally around the clock, not only to prepare for the storm but to assess the damage in the hours and days following. I personally thanked members of the York County Emergency Management Agency, Maine Game Warden Service, Maine Forest Service, Maine Marine Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard, American Red Cross, and many volunteers, for all their efforts. We owe a debt of gratitude to these folks who give so much of their time to do all they can to try and protect us during and after storms such as this.
As the Ice Storm of 1998 brought out the best in Maine people, so did this recent storm. I was impressed with the level of readiness of our town and city officials and our local emergency management agencies. Without the incredible amount of preparation that they put into planning for events such as this, the amount of damage could have been even worse. All along our tour of the damaged area, I heard stories of neighbors helping each other during their time of need. Local fire departments went door to door to check on residents and make sure our elderly neighbors were warm and safe. More than 200 members of our National Guard, from all around Maine, left the safety and comfort of their own homes and families to stand guard and direct traffic away from unsafe roads and free up police and firefighters so they could focus on other important duties.
These heartwarming stories of people doing what they can to help others characterize Maine people. As we proved during the Ice Storm, and we are proving yet again, Mother Nature might deliver us a tough blow... but we Mainers will recover and we will be better than ever.