December 27, 2012

Few problems on capital-area roads early Thursday

By Michael Shepherd
Staff Writer

and Keith Edwards
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — Schools and state office buildings were closed Thursday, making for a lonely capital-area commute, and local authorities say that’s why there have been few accidents on snow-covered roads.

click image to enlarge

AND MORE SNOW: Carey Groleau, of Bangor, sprints her dog through the snow storm that descended upon Maine Thursday in West Gardiner. Several inches are expected to fall, closing state offices. Groleau was taking a break from driving to Texas to get her canine some exercise.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Gov. Paul LePage closed all state offices because of the storm, while schools are closed due to the holiday vacation.

A Thursday morning alert from the National Weather Service said Kennebec County and surrounding counties are under a winter storm warning until 4 a.m. Friday, and the area can expect 10-14 inches of snow.

In Hallowell, city Police Chief Eric Nason said his department has received reports of stuck vehicles, but no accidents as of 11:15 a.m.

“Any time the school’s not open or the state’s not open ... it reduces the traffic and reduces the problems we have on the roads,” Nason said. “I guess you could say we’ve weathered the storm so far.”

In Augusta, Steve Leach, the fire department’s battalion chief, said his department has been called to just one accident — a woman driving her car into a ditch off of Exit 109A, between Interstate 95 and Western Avenue. Leach said she was transported to MaineGeneral Medical Center for minor injuries.

Maine State Police responded to an accident just north of there, near Exit 112A. On the southbound side of the interstate around 10:30 a.m., a tractor-trailer could be seen with the tractor on the road and the trailer in a ditch.

Augusta and Gardiner officials have announced extensions of normal winter parking bans, while Winthrop and Hallowell officials said they won’t be extending theirs.

Meanwhile, the snow is good news for skiers, as the snow will coat trails that have been mostly bare during November and December. Volunteers and equipment are ready to roll at Bond Brook Recreation area to groom the 17-mile trail system for cross-country skiers.

But skiers on edge to hit the Nordic trails in today's heavy snow will need to wait for the fresh snow to be packed and groomed before heading to the city-owned trails nestled roughly between the Augusta State Airport and Bond Brook in Augusta.

Leif Dahlin, the city's community services director, said groomers will be out getting the trails ready as soon as the storm ends. If grooming goes well, some trails could be ready for skiing by the weekend.

"It's entirely possible — possible — we will be skiing this weekend," Dahlin said Thursday morning. "I know folks on the Nordic side of things are chomping at the bit. The machinery is ready to go, the volunteers are ready, the will is there. We just need this storm to come through and get the snow rolled and packed down."

Dahlin said people can check Augusta Trails' Facebook page for updates on the status of the trails. The Bond Brook Recreation Area trails are open to the public, at no charge.

Area schools are closed for winter break. Richmond's town office will be closing at noon today, while Augusta's Lithgow Library will close at 2:30 p.m.

Correction: An earlier version of this story used outdated references to exits. The story has been corrected.

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