December 17, 2013

Snow gives an encore in Maine as deep freeze lingers

An intense snow band hits southern Maine, reducing visibility to near-zero.

From Staff And News Services

With snow falling in Maine, the Maine Turnpike Authority has lowered its speed limit to 45 mph, and Portland announced a citywide parking ban from 10 p.m. Tuesday until 6 a.m. Wednesday.

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An employee uses a snowblower to clear the parking lot at the Department of Health and Human Services on on Marginal Way in Portland on Tuesday, just in time for more snow that is headed for Maine.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Ron Langway of Portland cleans snow from the sidewalks around the Nickelodeon movie theater Monday. Langway works for the management company that owns the building. More snow is expected Tuesday.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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At 7:25 p.m. meterologist Dave Epstein reported that an intense snow band was dumping snow at a rate of about 2 inches per hour, creating near-zero visibility just north of Portland.

The latest storm made its way into southwestern New England by late Tuesday morning and gradually track northeastward. Parts of Maine could see upward of 9 inches by the time the storm pushes off the coast Wednesday afternoon, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Hawley in Gray.

Most of the region will see 4 to 8 inches of snow.

Other communities also announced parking bans, including Biddeford, from 8 p.m. Tuesday to 7 a.m. Wednesday, and Saco, from 11 p.m. Tuesday to 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Mainers awoke to a deep freeze as overnight temperatures bottomed out at minus-5 at Portland International Jetport. Although winds were light, the wind chill still registered a minus 15, according to the National Weather Service. The weather service forecasts the temperature to rise into the teens to low 20s Tuesday.

Temperatures were below zero for many parts of the region Tuesday morning – including minus 27 in Berlin, N.H., and Saranac Lake, N.Y., – and 10 to 15 degrees below normal for this time of year. Temperatures will start to rise as the weekend approaches and could hit 60 in Boston by Sunday, Hawley said.

In Lewiston and Auburn, the extreme cold temporarily shut down the bus system after sub-zero temperatures froze air lines that run hydraulic and steering systems.

It was so cold in Maine that power cables snapped in at least two locations – one in Cumberland County, the other in Somerset County – leaving about 950 homes and businesses without electricity and heat for a couple of hours in subzero temperatures.

“The wires can contract so much to the point that they snap. If it gets super cold, that can happen,” said Gail Rice, a spokeswoman for Central Maine Power.

Crews from travel agency AAA, which provides roadside assistance, were stretched thin to deal with an unusually high number of calls for assistance.

Patrick Moody, spokesman for AAA Northern New England, which encompasses Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, said the three states average between 1,500 and 2,000 calls on a normal winter day. On Monday, AAA Northern New England provided service to nearly 4,500 vehicles and Moody said he expected that number to be eclipsed by day’s end Tuesday.

“We’ve been taking 200 calls every half hour,” he said. “Everyone has been pulled in. I’m dispatching right now.”

Moody said AAA hires seasonal staff every winter anyway and most are working this week. The travel agency works with a network of contractors to provide assistance.

“Our contractors are all doing the same thing. Staffing up, making sure their equipment is ready to go,” he said.

On Monday, there were many calls from people who got their vehicles stuck in the remnants of the weekend snowstorm. Most of the calls on Tuesday were what Moody called “cold-related” calls, typically jump starts for dead car batteries.

“Batteries last on average about three to five years, so if you haven’t had it checked, it’s a good idea,” he said. “Also, people should reduce the amount of load on the battery. So if you can unplug that car charger, you should probably do it.”

Moody also said motorists should keep an eye on their tires to ensure they are properly inflated and have enough tread.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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A Skowhegan Highway Department snowblower clears snow from the ice-covered walking bridge Tuesday. Freezing spray from the Kennebec River covered nearby tree limbs with ice.

David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

  


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