Guardrails along Route 186 in the Gouldsboro village of Birch Harbor hang suspended in the air on June 9 after torrential rain that morning caused a creek to swell and flow over the road, eventually sweeping part of the road away. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

It’s expected to cost more than $2.5 million to repair damage from an intense rainstorm in early June that washed out multiple paved roads in coastal Hancock and Washington counties as well as gravel paths in Acadia National Park.

The storm dumped several inches of rain in coastal Maine in the early morning hours of June 9. More than 5 inches of rain fell in Bar Harbor, Jonesboro and Perry, according to data compiled by the National Weather Service. During that same period Blue Hill, Harrington and Sullivan got between 3 and 4 inches, with lesser amounts measured elsewhere along the coast in Hancock and Washington counties.

The deluge turned trickling creeks into rivers and washed away large sections of road in Jonesboro, Machias, Roque Bluffs and in the Gouldsboro village of Birch Harbor. Many additional miles of road were damaged where gushing water eroded and undermined the edges of the pavement.

The minimum estimated cost for repairing the paved roads in the coastal towns is $1.5 million, according to John Devin, an engineer with the Maine Department of Transportation.

In Acadia National Park — where the storm damaged carriage paths and hiking trails on Sargent Mountain and in the Schoodic section of the park on the eastern side of Frenchman Bay, among other places — the total damage exceeds $1 million, according to park officials.

Most of the damage outside the park was to roads in Gouldsboro, Winter Harbor, Jonesboro and Roque Bluffs, Devin said. Most of the needed repairs have been completed except for paving in some places, which is expected to be done this week, he said.

“In Birch Harbor, where twin 48-inch diameter culverts had washed out, we are putting back twin 72-inch diameter culverts, basically doubling the capacity to carry water,” Devin said.

Those culverts will run under Route 186, which washed out between Winter Harbor and the Gouldsboro village of Prospect Harbor. Additional roadside slope work, cleanup and guardrail installation in Birch Harbor is expected to happen after the July 4 holiday, he said.

The storm, which resulted when colder air from Canada blew southeast into a mass of warm, moist air moving northeast along the coast, has been cited as an example of how a warming climate can cause heavier downours.

“Three to four inches in a few hours certainly falls in the category of an extreme event,” Sean Birkel, a research assistant professor at the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine and Maine’s state climatologist, said recently. “While this was a weather event, the overall warming climate in addition to changes in atmospheric circulation make intense storms more likely.”

Devin said that multiple sections of the 48-inch culverts that were swept downstream during the June 9 storm remain out on the mudflats of Birch Harbor, where they will be retrieved with the help of a Maine Forest Service helicopter.

“As they are very busy fighting fires, the Forest Service’s schedule will dictate when it can happen,” Devin said.

In Acadia, park maintenance crews have repaired and reopened some damaged sections of carriage path on Sargent Mountain, and are working on damaged carriage paths on the mountain’s east side and on bike paths at Schoodic, according to Keith Johnston, the park’s chief of facilities management.

Part of the Maple Spring hiking trail, which runs between Upper Hadlock Pond and Sargent Mountain’s south ridge, has been closed indefinitely “as most trail and tread related structures were fully lost,” he said.

A lot of gravel and crushed stone on Acadia’s carriage paths was washed into the nearby trees and stream beds, he said. How much of that displaced gravel and crushed stone can be retrieved without causing even further damage to adjacent areas is something the park will take into consideration as it continues to assess the storm damage.

“The repairs in total will take a long time to fully repair,” Johnston said. “Damage to the forested ecosystems and streams from the sheer volume of displaced aggregate is hard to comprehend.”

Johnston urged park visitors to avoid closed areas. It can slow work down if members of the public come across work crews on carriage paths and hiking trails, he said, and such areas are not safe to use.

“Park staff and rescue teams do not want to have to respond to an injured person in these areas,” Johnston said. “It will be hard to get them out to safety.”

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....