Steve Hendrix of the Bristol Parks & Recreation Department recovers items from the Bell House at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park. High waves and strong winds carried away two of the structure’s walls. In a stroke of luck, the fog bell, left, was recently removed from its perch on the structure because of wood rot, said Shelley Gallagher, director of Bristol’s Parks & Recreation Department. Otherwise, it would have been lost in the storm, she said. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Shelley Gallagher was busy Thursday assessing the damage the midweek storm wreaked on the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park, one of Maine’s iconic landmarks.

But it’s been a challenge for the director of Bristol’s Parks & Recreation Department to fulfill that responsibility this week. Pemaquid Point was battered by high waves and 79 mph winds on Tuesday night and Wednesday, Gallagher said. The gusts and surges toppled an entire wall of the historic Bell House, scattering bricks and exposing its interior to the elements.

“We have security cameras, so first thing I did this morning is I looked to see to make sure the lighthouse was actually still standing,” she said.

The lighthouse tower is still in good shape. And, as luck would have it, the actual bell was not swept away because the town had moved it inside the house in August to address issues with its stand. Gallagher is confident that the Bell House can be restored to its former glory.

But picking up the pieces and charting a plan will be all the more difficult with another storm en route for Friday night through Saturday, expected to once again flood the coast and bring in hurricane-force winds. And Gallagher is worried, knowing that this week of weather isn’t simply a fluke.

“These storms are absolutely a concern, because there’s only so much you can do to hold up to it,” she said.



A powerful winter storm swept through Maine on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, bringing hurricane-force winds and storm surges that flooded communities up and down the coast.

Nearly 80,000 Versant and Central Maine Power customers were without power at the height of the outages. Roads and beaches, fully submerged beneath high tide, were closed to the public. A truck driving on Interstate 295 flew off of Tukey’s Bridge in Portland and landed in the ocean, in part due to wet road conditions. Wind gusts pushed a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737MAX8 aircraft into a jet bridge at the Portland International Jetport.

Chris Martin, who owns Gosnold Arms Inn with his wife in New Harbor, climbs through a destroyed deck on the property on Thursday. Martin said that he was trying to get as much cleaned up and secured before the next storm. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The storm brought in the highest water level ever recorded in Bar Harbor, and the third highest in Portland, said Peter Slovinsky, a marine geologist with the Maine Geological Survey.

Gov. Janet Mills has since declared a state of civil emergency to mobilize state resources and open a channel for potential federal resources that will help address damage across the state.

“Significant rain, wind, and flooding have once again ravaged our state – this time our small communities up and down the coast,” Mills said in a statement. “The damage we are seeing is devastating, from working waterfronts, to small businesses, to public roadways and more.”


She also warned residents to be prepared for the storm Saturday.

The National Weather Service has issued flood watches along with expected wind gusts up and down the coast. Slovinsky said the storm Saturday could bring in another round of record-breaking water levels in Bar Harbor and Portland.

On Wednesday afternoon, as the sun emerged from behind the clouds, communities began taking stock of the damage and beginning the arduous process of cleaning up.

The flooding reached into businesses in Portland’s Old Port and Boothbay Harbor, where one restaurant owner said water rushed in like a “little tsunami” and left damage that she estimates will cost $10,000 to $12,000 to repair. Bristol, home to Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, and its working waterfront were pummeled by the storm.

A cottage in the village of New Harbor was torn off its pilings during the midweek storm. “The storm damage throughout Bristol and its villages is unprecedented,” Town Clerk Jess Bourne said on Thursday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“The storm damage throughout Bristol and its villages is unprecedented,” Town Clerk Jess Bourne said. “Whole fish houses, wharves and docks have been pulled out into the harbors, two local oceanside restaurants suffered structural damage.”

Town officials, busy managing the aftermath of the storm, are still determining the financial impacts of the storm, Bourne said.



The Portland Head Light emerged from the storm relatively unscathed this time around. The lighthouse was battered by 2022’s Christmas Eve storm, when strong waves broke windows and doors, flooding the inside of the lighthouse and its museum. It cost Cape Elizabeth $200,000 to repair the lighthouse, Facilities Director Dave Bagdasarian said.

“The lingering scent of saltwater is particularly challenging to eliminate,” he said.

Jim Hazell of Bristol Parks and Recreation recovers a door from the Bell House at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, which sustained damage during yesterday’s storm after being struck by high waves and wind gusts. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

But the storm prepared the town for the future. Before the storm Wednesday, Bagdasarian said the town boarded up windows and that limited the damage the lighthouse sustained. Even so, the storm damaged the lighthouse’s flagstone walkway, observation area and a non-critical door.

There’s only so much the Portland Head Lighthouse can withstand, though.

“It’s becoming clear that climate change is irreversible, and events like the lighthouse facing direct waves and Shore Road flooding are likely to become more frequent,” Bagdasarian said. “In the face of these challenges, our unwavering commitment persists, and we are dedicated to positioning ourselves to the best of our abilities in order to safeguard the valuable assets of our town.”


Kathy Raftice, Cape Elizabeth’s director of community services and Fort Williams Park, believes the town has prepared Portland Head Lighthouse for Saturday’s storm surges.

However, Gallagher, the parks director in Bristol, is nervously awaiting this next storm.

The whole of Pemaquid Point is a symbol for Maine, engraved on the state quarter. The lighthouse was built nearly 200 years ago, and the bell tower came 70 years later. Gallagher loves Pemaquid Point and what it means to Maine residents. That’s in part why she feels so committed to restoring the building.

As it stands, she plans to have the area fully restored by next summer, using the same bricks and foundation to meet the standards of historic preservation. The town also is gradually reconstructing certain portions of Pemaquid Point’s buildings with materials that can better withstand storms. Gallagher hopes some of that work can get done Friday.

But storms of this nature are increasingly more common and more intense. And preparing the already wounded Pemaquid Point to withstand this weekend’s storm feels like a race against the clock.

“There’s there’s not much more that we can do, than hope for the best,” Gallagher said.

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