PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Heavy flooding throughout northern New England was blamed for at least one fatality as officials on Wednesday urged residents in all three states to avoid water-covered roadways and watch out for overflowing rivers.
The Maine Warden Service said 74-year-old Paul Oliver of Caswell was swept down a flooded culvert after going out to move his truck Tuesday morning. His body was found by wardens around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Maine experienced flooding statewide and was likely to remain under a flood warning until late Thursday or early Friday, state emergency officials said.
In New Hampshire, Fish and Game officials say they have suspended the search for a missing man, citing rising waters in the Smith River in Bristol. Officials say Aaron Hoyt, 32, of Northfield, is presumed drowned after leaping into the river Monday. Fish and Game Lt. James Kneeland said Wednesday the river has risen 9 feet since Tuesday and is predicted to rise another 14 feet by Thursday morning.
Northern and central Vermont also saw a flood warning, and flood watches were enacted in some New Hampshire towns as heavy rains and melting snow and ice pushed rivers to or above flood levels throughout the region.
“The melting snow helped to get the rivers high to begin with and the rain kind of pushed them right over,” said Tom Hawley, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Gray.
Rainfall totals in Maine spanned from 0.35 inches to 1.72 inches and flooding problems will persist over the next few days, according to the National Weather Service.
The weather service was eyeing the St. John River that runs along the Canadian border for ice jams that could dam the river and cause flooding. Rivers throughout the state were expected to crest Wednesday and Thursday.
Officials in Dexter closed streets and evacuated businesses Wednesday because of flooding, WZON-AM reported. Main Street in Dexter reopened in the early afternoon. Businesses also evacuated from Dover-Foxcroft, the station reported.
The Androscoggin River could reach nearly three feet above flood level in Auburn while the Kennebec River could reach six feet above flood level in Augusta, said Mark Hyland, operations director for the state Emergency Management Agency. The Penobscot River has seen localized flooding, he said.
Cold and dry weather in the forecast for the rest of the week should help abate further flooding, Hyland said.
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin warned that Lake Champlain was nearing flooding stage on Wednesday. More than 45 roads in the state were closed over a 24-hour period from Tuesday into Wednesday. Most rivers around Vermont were receding Wednesday and should drop below flood stage, but damage in the state was widespread, officials said.
“It really was unfortunately wide ranging damage,” Shumlin said.
New Hampshire officials closed roads in several towns, including Conway and Plymouth. Flooding had started to recede by mid-day on Wednesday, officials said.
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