RUMFORD — The governor’s Infrastructure Rebuilding and Resilience Commission listened to stories Friday in the Rumford Falls Auditorium about the 2023 flooding in Franklin and Oxford counties.

Several storms with heavy rains causing flash floods hit the state in 2023, including May 1, June 29 and Dec. 18. There were major infrastructure losses such as streets, homes, businesses, vehicles, athletic fields and trails.

The December 2023 flooding claimed the lives of a grandmother and granddaughter in Mexico after the Swift River rose so fast and high it washed the truck they were driving over a bridge into the water.

The 24-member panel is holding listening sessions around the state to get input on what happened and how to prevent it. An annual report is expected to be issued in May 2025.

Road work to rebuild a section of Macomber Hill Road, seen Thursday, damaged in the 2023 floods is scheduled to begin after July 15. The governor’s Infrastructure Rebuilding and Resilience Commission met Friday in Rumford to talk about what happened during several heavy rain and flash flooding in 2023. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

According to the commission’s website, it is “charged with reviewing and evaluating Maine’s response to the recent storms, identifying crucial areas for near-term investment and policy needs, and developing the state’s first long-term infrastructure plan to ensure that Maine is ready for the harsh storms ahead.”

The commission consists of state and local officials; representatives of affected communities, businesses and industries; and experts in infrastructure, construction, engineering, electrical utilities, floodplain management, financing, philanthropy, emergency response and climate science.


At Friday’s meeting, several people noted that being prepared is key. That means having a resource guide for towns, especially smaller towns, on what to do and where to get help.

Rumford Town Manager George O’Keefe said the forecast for Dec. 18 called for 3 inches of rain. It turned into 7 inches. People’s homes and businesses were flooded.

“It wasn’t just the type of flood, it was the speed of the water coming up,” he said.

Several residences in Mexico off U.S. Route 2 near the Swift River still have not been reoccupied, said Mexico Selectman Peter Merrill.

That area had to contend with quick rising water from both the Androscoggin and Swift rivers.

Mexico Selectman Peter Merrill, right, speaks Friday to the governor’s Infrastructure Rebuilding and Resilience Commission near the banks of the Swift River in Mexico where a car was swept away during last December’s catastrophic rainstorm. Beyond the loss of life, the towns of Rumford and Mexico were devastated by the rains, which saw the area pictured under 8-10 feet of water. Cranes in the background are part of the bridge rebuilding effort. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Jay Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere, a member of the governor’s commission, said last year was her first experience with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for floods. She is still dealing with paperwork from the May 1 and June 29 floods, and a couple of roads still do not have through access.


Contracts were awarded to fix Macomber Hill Road, Begin Road and Hutchinson Road. A temporary bridge was installed on Hutchinson Road for people above the stream and emergency personnel. Macomber Hill still has a gaping hole in the middle of it that has prevented through traffic. Residents have had to detour around the area to get to their homes.

“The Army Corp of Engineers regulations don’t allow in-stream work to begin until after July 15,” LaFreniere said in regard to Macomber Hill Road. The other roads that needed federal and state permits will also be fixed after July 15.

LaFreniere said the town had received 6-8 inches of rain June 29 in a short period of time. They used every emergency cone and barrier they had and ended up dumping piles of dirt in front of the holes in the roads to deter motor vehicles. Those barrier are still up on Macomber Hill Road.

O’Keefe said that the dam on the Androscoggin River above Rumford Center has no flood gate. If there was one, that would have helped in the December storm, which was the second largest flood since 1936 for the town, he said.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection was on site very quickly to help deal with oil leaks and other hazardous materials, O’Keefe said.

Frank Diconzo, vice chairman of the Rumford Select Board, said people need to dust off their emergency plans and be ready for the next storm.


“Mother Nature is taking a turn for the worse and each time it gets worse,” Diconzo said. They need to get into the mindset of prevention, he said, to save lives and infrastructure, he added.

Farmington Fire Chief Tim “TD” Hardy said at one point during the December storm, no one could get into Farmington and no one could get out. It was a like an island, he said.

Hardy said they are used to dealing with flooding of the Sandy River in the intervale area of lower Main Street where McDonald’s, Gifford’s Ice Cream, The Ice Cream Shoppe and Walgreens are located. Both Walgreens and McDonald’s just opened the inside of their businesses to customers. Gifford’s still has not reopened, he said.

Rumford Town Manager George O’Keefe, far left, gives a tour Friday to the governor’s new Infrastructure Rebuilding and Resilience Commission at Rumford Falls. O’Keefe spoke of the damage during last December’s catastrophic rainstorm that devastated northern Oxford County. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

During the Dec. 18 storm, they had to detour a lot of truck motor vehicle traffic around the area to side streets and that did not work well, Hardy said.

The officials said they used every option they had to communicate with each other and the public what was going on. Franklin County Emergency Management directors have been meeting on a regular basis with authorities to make plans to improve on what they have done in the past.

Commission members and guests went on a site visit to Rumford Falls Trail after the meeting Friday to see where the dam on the Androscoggin River is and the flood gate. They also traveled to 13 Main St. in Mexico just before the bridge washed over.


O’Keefe said to the crowd in a parking lot across from Hosmer Field that the water was 7 feet over people’s heads. After walking across the bridge to Mexico, Peter Merrill showed where the businesses and homes were flooded half way up the buildings. Several places remain unoccupied.

He said the nearby post office in Mexico still has not reopened since Dec. 18.

The group also had the option to visit Macomber Hill Road in Jay to see the damage.

“You all have been through a lot,” Commission Co-chairperson Linda Nelson, also the director of Stonington’s Economic and Community Development, said after listening to those who went through the flooding.

She thanked them all for their commitment to public safety.

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