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Maine's beach towns see slow start to summer, but hope for sunny skies ahead

Hundreds of visitors flock to Old Orchard Beach on one of the few sunny days in early July. HospitalityMaine Interim Executive Director Becky Jacobson says coastal towns across Maine saw a slow start to the summer, but things appear to have bounced back.
Caty DuDevoir
/
Maine Public
Hundreds of visitors flock to Old Orchard Beach on one of the few sunny days in early July. HospitalityMaine Interim Executive Director Becky Jacobson says coastal towns across Maine saw a slow start to the summer, but things appear to have bounced back.

Last month's heavy rainfall has affected some of Maine's largest industries including farming and tourism. In the tourist haven of Old Orchard Beach, businesses reported seeing a noticeably slower June. But business owners and beach goers are hopeful for sunny skies in August.

Every summer, nearly five million tourists pack the sandy beaches of Old Orchard Beach. The small coastal town of about 9,000 residents traces its roots as a popular travel destination as far back as the 1820s. But this summer got off to a rocky start.

In June and part of July, heavy rainfall washed out nearly every sunny day.

"Several of our businesses here in town are down because of the rain and that includes restaurants, hotels, and some of our campgrounds, too," says Kim Howard, executive director of the Old Orchard Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Howard says it's too early to know how much business is down.

But Michael Rioux of the Sandpiper Hotel says he's never seen anything like it in his three decades working in the hotel industry.

"I've never seen a Fourth of July that slow and having an almost empty parking lot. I think we had maybe three rooms rented, which is unheard of on Fourth of July night. It's definitely had an impact as well as guests wanting to leave early and trying to get their money back. It puts us in a tough position because it's such a short season with high expenses and rising costs," he says.

Pete Duhamel says his business is also way down. He runs a popular restaurant called Dewey's that has served the Old Orchard Beach community for 25 years.

"The rain in June has cut my business down in half at least. This has probably been the worst year I've ever had the entire time I've been here," he says.

Hundreds of visitors flock to Old Orchard Beach on one of the few sunny days in early July. HospitalityMaine Interim Executive Director Becky Jacobson says coastal towns across Maine saw a slow start to the summer, but things appear to have bounced back.
Caty DuDevoir
/
Maine Public
Hundreds of visitors flock to Old Orchard Beach on one of the few sunny days in early July. HospitalityMaine Interim Executive Director Becky Jacobson says coastal towns across Maine saw a slow start to the summer, but things appear to have bounced back.

And that's not all. Paul Golder, the president of the popular amusement park Palace Playland, says some rides are not able to operate in certain conditions.

"It seems like even when it's not raining, we're still getting a lot of moisture to the point where it sort of interferes with the operation of some of the machines here. We'd have to close things down 'cause of the condensation in the air on top of the extra rain we've been getting," he says.

Golder remains hopeful. He says June is typically a slow time for businesses, but mid-July and August is peak season. And some tourists say they aren't letting the weather spoil their plans.

"Massachusetts has had also a very rainy summer so far, so we lucked out. The weather outlook for this week is beautiful. We're just very fortunate," said Tiffany Bell of Boston, who visited Old Orchard Beach with her family last week.

A recent study from Dartmouth College revealed that warming climate conditions will increase extreme precipitation in the Northeast by 52% by the end of the century.

For now, there are sunny skies ahead, and businesses say things appear to be picking up.

"I would say that while June was a rainy, slower month, all indications are that things have bounced back," says Becky Jacobson with HospitalityMaine.

Jacobson says July looks like it will wind up being a solid month, and everyone who caters to tourists, she says, is still looking forward to August.