Ice on Route 3 in Bar Harbor. ISLANDER PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

Freezing and thawing affects roads, basements



BAR HARBOR — Like a science experiment gone awry, water has shifted from solid to liquid back to solid so many times this winter, it has challenged drivers and flooded basements throughout the area.

Ice buildup on the newly reconstructed Route 3 has caught the attention of local drivers. At a town council meeting last week, resident and business owner Tom St. Germain mentioned the ice on Route 3.

“I wonder if anyone is looking at what seems to be a surprising amount of ice on Eden Street just after the construction,” St. Germain asked councilors. “I know this is just anecdotal, but it seems like there’s an awful lot.”

According to Town Manager Cornell Knight, town officials have been in contact with the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) about the ice buildup on the road. Knight said that MDOT will assess this winter “and see if they need to take corrective actions before this project is finished.”

Knight added, “We do have problems with ice in a number of places, but it is probably the most pronounced on Eden Street.”

“We are aware of the issue and are defining our plan to correct,” said MDOT Deputy Commissioner Nina Fisher. For the short term, she said, “we are working with our staff, Bar Harbor and the contractor to address the immediate issues: clearing the ice buildup on the road and cutting some openings for drainage on the edge of the roadway.”

MDOT crews have been using graders and loaders to break through the snow banks, she said, “which are essentially dams, to get the water out of the road.”

“In the longer term,” Fisher said, “we plan to mill the shoulders to get more capacity at the gutter line.” Currently the shoulders are straight graded, she explained. “We will also look at the ditches and possibility of deepening them in some areas to increase storage.”

Another factor Fisher mentioned was the newly constructed multi-use path between West Street and the Ferry Terminal, not all of which was paved before winter.

“Bar Harbor has not been plowing those sections, which has led to some issues with the freeze/thaw we’ve been experiencing,” she said.

The multi-use path will be fully paved when work resumes in the spring, Fisher said.

Basements

Local homeowners as well are being challenged by the freeze/thaw cycle this winter, as numerous basements have flooded. The Bar Harbor Fire Department has responded to nine calls in the past few weeks from people whose basements flooded.

“Every time there’s snow turned to rain, or heavy rain when there’s lots of snow, the water has no place to go,” Fire Chief Matt Bartlett explained. “It ends up in people’s basements or homes.”

Bartlett said that while the department’s resources are limited to deal with flooding, it prioritizes safety.

“We focus on keeping the water away from the furnace or electrical system,” he said. “We do have sump pumps, and forestry pumps to pump water away from the house.”

Resident Andrew Flanigan, who has responded to flooded basements as well, sometimes working with the fire departments, said it’s important for homeowners to know they can call the fire department before a flooded basement turns into a safety hazard.

Also, he said, prevention is key. “My advice to homeowners is to channel the water away from your house,” he said. “Maintain access to doors and windows.”

“The snow prevents the water from flowing away. It traps it,” Flanigan said. Clearing snow from the area around doors and windows, he said, will help divert water away when snow turns to rain.

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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