A kayaker who attempted to maneuver his way down a roiling stream leading to the flooded Kennebec River died Monday after he became snagged in trees and efforts to rescue him failed.

James McCann, 48, of Gardiner, became the first victim of this spring’s floods while he was kayaking down the Cobbosseecontee Stream. Police Officer Julian Harwood said McCann was approaching the Kennebec in downtown Gardiner when he was seen clinging to trees along the fast-moving stream.

Another kayaker tried to rescue McCann, and city rescue teams who soon showed up tried to get a rescue line to him but also failed, Harwood said.

McCann went into the water, and after he resurfaced rescue personnel tried to revive him, Harwood said.

The accident happened as Maine’s major rivers crested above flood stage, sending water into basements and shutting down roads that became flooded and damaged by the water.

Much of the damage to roads near flooded streams and small rivers was still covered with water on Monday. But once the damage can be assessed, it’s likely to be far greater than the damage to buildings along Maine’s large rivers, said Lynette Miller of the Maine Emergency Management Agency.

“I think the least dramatic will end up being the most expensive,” Miller said.

While it was too early to estimate total damages Monday, the preliminary estimate for Androscoggin County alone topped $1 million, that county’ emergency director Joanne Potvin said.

“We dodged a bullet,” said Potvin.

The Androscoggin River crested at nearly 17 feet in Auburn about 3 p.m. Monday. That’s about 4 feet over flood stage, said emergency management officials.

Upstream, ice jams between Bethel and Rumford had officials there closely monitoring conditions. Flood fears eased when the river found a channel around the ice through farm fields.

Canton emergency officials weren’t calmed by that news, however.

Fire Chief Wayne Dube and Lt. Jim Dyment, the area’s emergency management agency director, worried about the river water making its way through their lowland town.

“We’ve been, ‘Sleepless in Canton,’ let’s make a movie,” Dube said of emergency responders’ long weekend.

The town along the Androscoggin River has been hit hard in the past by floods, but damage as of Monday was limited to a road washouts and water in a few cellars, said Kathleen Hutchins, town administrative assistant.

“We’re very, very fortunate,” said Hutchins. “We squeezed by, we didn’t take any chances.”

Norway Town Manager David Holt said at least 15 roads there were affected by flooding. By Monday, “We still had nine roads either fully or partially closed.”

Potvin and Daniel Schorr, her counterpart with the Oxford County Emergency Management Agency, said they expect the governor to request a presidential disaster declaration for the counties. That would make the area eligible for federal funds to help with reconstruction.

Franklin County Emergency Management Director Tim Hardy said he was keeping watch over two ice jams in the Sandy River. One, he said, was about three-quarters of a mile long in Farmington, and the second was about a mile long between Farmington Falls and New Sharon.

The jams had caused the river to rise over the banks, but the river had started receding Monday.

Elsewhere, the Saco River crested on Sunday without creating serious problems. Fryeburg Police Chief Wayne Brooking said the Saco was high “but not high enough to flood.”

Aptly named Water Street in Mechanic Falls was flooded by the Little Androscoggin River, which burst its banks in places Sunday and continued to rise for a time Monday.

Some people tried to navigate flooded roads and had to be rescued.

In Rumford, a woman and two small children were trapped in a Chevrolet Suburban stalled in floodwater on Route 232, Oxford County Sheriff’s Deputy Chancey Libby said.

“The water was over the road about 150 to 200 yards, and it was about 2 feet deep,” he said. The woman and children remained in the vehicle, and it was pulled out with a chain.

Durham Fire and Rescue was called out twice to rescue motorists trapped in stalled vehicles, EMA Director Deborah Larrabee said. In both instances motorists drove around barricades and were rescued without injuries.

Oxford County’s Schorr said he had heard of one driver who needed assistance after ignoring a barricade on Route 2.

“You can’t legislate against stupidity,” he said.


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