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Maine residents mourn as record high tide washes away historic fishing shacks

A record high tide in Maine led to the destruction of three historic fishing shacks dating back to the 1800s at Willard Beach in South Portland, officials say.

A record high tide in Maine washed away three historic fishing shacks that had stood since the 1800s and formed the backdrop of countless photographs.

Michelle Erskine said she was visiting fisherman's point at Willard Beach in South Portland on Saturday when she captured video footage of the last two wooden shacks sliding into the ocean.

"Oh no. They're both going. Oh no!" she can be heard saying on the video.

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Erskine, who has lived in South Portland all her life, said her son had his senior photos taken at the shacks and wedding parties often visited them.

"It's truly a sad day for the community and the residents of South Portland," Erskine said in an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday. "History is just being washed away."

The shacks, owned by the city of South Portland, had just undergone a facelift in October when they were repainted.

They were the last in a series of fishing shacks that predate the city’s incorporation after they were first built along the shore and then moved to their most recent location in the 1880s. Erskine said they once housed lobster traps and fishing gear. Two shacks were destroyed in an earlier storm in 1978.

A record 14.57-foot high tide was measured in Portland, Maine, just after noon on Saturday, after a storm surge amplified what was already the month's highest tide, said National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Cempa. That broke the previous record of 14.17 feet set in 1978 and was the highest since measurements began in 1912. Cempa said the tide gauge measures the difference between the high tide and the average low tide.

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The surge flooded some homes in Old Orchard Beach and Kennebunkport in Maine, and Hampton Beach in New Hampshire. It came just days after a previous storm damaged one of Maine's most beloved lighthouses which is featured on the state quarter.

"Very sadly, all three fishing shacks at Willard Beach have been completely destroyed," the city wrote on its Facebook page.

But the South Portland Historical Society sounded a note of hope, saying on social media that it had prepared for such an event by last year enlisting architects and engineers to create drawings "so that everything would be in place to build reproductions of the shacks, if needed."

The society is asking for donations to rebuild.

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