On April 1, 1987, April Fools Day, no one was laughing when one of the worst natural disasters occurred in Maine. For those that were there, they will never forget the "Great Flood of 1987."

I remember it very well. I was 16 at the time and remember seeing the water from the Little Androscoggin River rush over the falls at the bridge on East Main Street in South Paris.

Oxford Hills High School Yearbook 1987
Oxford Hills High School Yearbook 1987
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This wasn't even the worst of it.

According to an article in the Sun Journal, which at the time was called "The Lewiston Daily Sun," this was the worst flooding Maine had seen since 1936.

The (Androscoggin) River expected to crest at midnight, at about 23 feet. 10 feet above flood stage according to Peter V. Gagnon, director of the Androscoggin County Bureau of Civil Emergency Preparedness. Water flowed past the Union Water Co. Gatehouse in Lewiston at a rate of more than 97,210 cubic-feet-per-second...

-Lewsiton Daily Sun - April 2, 1987

What caused the flooding?

According to The Maine Emergency Management Agency, a warm rainstorm dropped 4 to 6 inches of rain in the mountains of Maine and New Hampshire. Combine that with over six inches of snowmelt and the streams and rivers began to rise. Maine's major rivers couldn't contain all that water and overflowed their banks.

MEMA provided this data on the aftermath:

  • 2100 homes flooded; 215 destroyed, 240 with major damage
  • 400 small businesses impacted
  • Countless roads and bridges destroyed or damaged
  • Fort Halifax historic site in Winslow washed away
  • Losses estimated at over $100 million ($247 million in today’s dollars)

Two months after the flood, WABK radio in Augusta created this video and sold it as a fundraiser for a flood victim relief fun.

This video on YouTube shows stunning footage taken the morning after the flood showing Main Street underwater from the Sandy River. Some buildings were washed away and two-thirds of the Fairbanks bridge fell into the water.

Most Mainers remember the ice storm of 1998 as one of Maine's greatest disasters, but for those who lived near the rivers of Maine, they remember the flood of 1987 just as well.

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