The National Weather Service (NWS) on Friday released a stinging rebuke of Gov. Janet Mills claim that the service failed to warn her Administration about the devastating storm that wiped out power for nearly half the state.
“The national weather service did not predict 5 or 6 inches of rain in any community in Maine,” Gov. Mills said at a press conference on Wednesday, her first public appearance after more than 36 hours of widespread power outages.
“The National Weather Service did not predict 68, 70 mile per hour winds in any area of Maine,” said Mills.
Mills’ attempt to pass blame on to the civil servants at NWS ran aground on Friday when the agency issued a statement to WGME.
According to NWS, and contrary to what Mills said, forecasters informed state and local leaders three days prior to the storm that Maine would see intense rain and flooding. Two days prior, the agency issued a flood watch and high wind watch “two full days” before the storm began.
Despite this advanced warning, Mills did not pre-emptively declare a state of emergency, as she previously did with the comparatively mild Hurricane Lee.
“The powerful low pressure system that hit Maine on December 18 with heavy rain and high winds was well forecasted and communicated in advance, including the potential for rainfall totals of 4-6 inches with localized areas receiving higher amounts. Forecasts and briefings provided to local and state officials began on Friday, December 15. NWS alerted for a significant weather event that would cause widespread flooding, given that the soils were already saturated from previous rain and snowmelt from the mountains would exacerbate the flood threat. The first flood watch and high wind watch were issued on Saturday afternoon, two full days before the storm. The state of Maine hosted a coordination call Sunday afternoon with NWS forecast offices in Gray and Caribou briefing on the expected flood, wind and coastal flood impacts. Rain began on Sunday night, and by Monday morning NWS offices had issued flash flood warnings areal flood warnings, and river flood warnings, which remained in effect through the middle of the week. The National Weather Service and our public safety partners in emergency management and broadcast media urged communities to prepare in advance for the hazards that were likely to occur on Monday, December 18. NWS forecasters informed local and state officials in the days leading up to the storm through daily email briefing packages, direct phone conversations, and virtual city and statewide briefings.” (emphasis added)
Mills has not commented publicly on the stinging rebuke from the NWS.