January 3

Stretch of snow, ice, frigid temps poses Waterville roads problems

A minor two-car head-on collision on Main Street was one of dozens of weather-related incidents Friday morning as public works crews struggled to keep up with snow removal.

By Jesse Scardina jscardina@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE — As December’s colder-than-usual temperatures have given way to January’s bitter start, the abundance of snow, ice and cold has hampered Waterville Public Works snow removal and caused several minor vehicle accidents.

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DEEP FREEZE: Josh Sevey, 31, walks on North Street in the bitter cold as another major winter storm hits Waterville on Friday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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SIDEWALK WORK: The Waterville Public Works clears the sidewalk on Pleasant Street in Waterville on Friday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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A minor two-car head-on collision on Main Street was one of about two dozen weather-related area accidents Friday morning as nearly 6 inches of fresh snow combined with bone-chilling below zero temperatures.

In addition to accidents, poor road conditions have caused travel delays. Close to a dozen cars couldn’t make it up the slick ramp from Kennedy Memorial Drive to Interstate 95 northbound early Friday morning until a city public works crew arrived to plow and treat it.

The onslaught of snow and cold has delayed snow removal in Waterville, as the department posted on the city’s website on Thursday that sidewalk and intersection snow removal was behind schedule in certain areas.

“We’ve had so many snow storms recently that we can’t find the man-power to remove it all quickly,” said Mark Turner, Waterville public works director.

In addition to the time off for the holidays, public works crews double up garbage pickup the day after Christmas and New Year’s Day, which reduces the number available to work on snow removal, Turner said.

“After each holiday we’ve had a storm, so it’s been difficult getting essential roads cleared and school zone sidewalks cleared off,” he said. “The other issue is the recent ice storm froze everything up, trying to plow through the sidewalks is almost like cutting through a pile of rocks or boulders.”

More than 5 inches of snow fell in the area on Friday, coupled with sub-zero temperatures, as it got to minus-9 degrees in Waterville early Friday morning.

Much of the snow and ice on the ground arrived during a colder-than-usual December, with an average temperature in Waterville of 19.4 degrees, over 6 degrees colder than the 30-year average of 25.6 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. The coldest Waterville got in December was minus-15 degrees on Dec. 17.

The combination of heavy snowfall followed by sub-zero temperatures make melting tools, such as rock salt, almost obsolete, Turner said.

“Rock salt doesn’t have much affect in melting at these temperatures, because whatever it melts will just freeze back up in the short term,” Turner said, adding that because a lot of the road treatment has been done with sand, public works have gone through about half of its sand supply though it’s only a quarter of the way through the winter.

“We started dealing with winter conditions two days before Thanksgiving and we haven’t stopped,” he said.

While the public works department has used more of its products than it would’ve hoped, Turner is hoping for a milder January and February, but would settle for a couple of calmer weeks.

So far, he won’t get that. Saturday and Sunday are expected to be warmer, but Tuesday is forecast to be in the single digits and Wednesday in the teens.

Blowing snow was also a problem Friday morning, according to a dispatcher at the Somerset County Regional Communications Center. More than a dozen accidents, but no injuries, were reported including a half-dozen in Skowhegan. In Madison, cars were reported off Route 148, the dispatcher said. There also were minor accidents in Fairfield, Solon and Interstate 95 in Palmyra.

In Skowhegan, Road Commissioner Greg Dore said the biggest problem clearing the roads Friday was equipment breaking because of the cold.

“The guys are holding their own,” Dore said of keeping up with the snow, ice and drifting. “We’re having some issues with equipment breaking because everything’s frozen solid, but we’re trying to keep up with it.”

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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DEEP FREEZE: One place where an abundance of snow isn’t a problem is the Quarry Road Recreational Area, where a grooming machine was tending to cross country trails there Friday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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DEEP FREEZE: Mark Douglas clears his Mayflower Hill Road neighbor’s driveway after more snow blankets Waterville on Friday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

 


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