LEWISTON — The timing and location of the Cowan Mill fire Wednesday created a traffic nightmare. Police said later in the day that some problems are likely to exist into Thursday morning.

The Longley Bridge and a section of Main Street are expected to remain closed through the commuter hour on Thursday. While firefighters were still battling the blaze Wednesday night, police were advising that area people start thinking about finding different routes in the morning.

“The firefighters are going to be at it all night and into the morning,” said Lewiston police Chief Michael Bussiere. “People should really think about alternate routes for their morning commute.”

The Cowan Mill went up in flames at the start of the busiest hour for traffic between the Twin Cities. Worse, the mill is located next to Longley Bridge, one of the most heavily traveled passages between Lewiston and Auburn.

Traffic along Main Street came to a complete halt when the fire was first reported. Side streets all the way back to the Veterans Memorial Bridge became clogged with traffic as motorists tried to escape the jam at the same time, taking the same routes.

The downtown area was even worse. Canal, Oxford and Lincoln streets, each stretching toward the burning mill, became thick with traffic that barely moved. Drivers attempted to peel away from the clot on Chestnut and Cedar streets, but found that traffic was thick there, too.

The flow of traffic on Lisbon street came to a standstill, as well. In Auburn, the number of cars and trucks unable to get across Longley Bridge resulted in traffic jams up Court Street, along Main Street and in the area of South Bridge, one of only two alternative local routes across the Androscoggin River.

Some drivers who were downtown when the fire started reported it took nearly an hour for them to get back to a main street or road. Several employees of businesses near the fire scene abandoned their parked vehicles altogether rather than trying to weave their way through the knot of cars and trucks.

Police said that in spite of the combination of frustrated drivers and heavy pedestrian traffic flowing to and away from the fire scene, no serious injuries or incidents were reported.

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