January 4

Lingering freeze causes dozens of minor accidents in Augusta area

Subzero temperatures have made roads hard to treat, with the capital city seeing 50 accidents and slide-offs Friday.

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Icy roads in sub-zero temperatures caused dozens of vehicle accidents and slide-offs Friday in the capital area, but no major injuries were reported.

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In Augusta, police said the department responded to 50 slide-offs and crashes, while an afternoon four-car pileup on Hallowell’s Water Street snarled traffic through the city for nearly two hours.

That crash, reported around 4 p.m. caused one minor injury to a four-year-old girl, who was treated at the scene. But Eric Nason, the city’s police chief, said nobody was hurt after Shenandoah Bailey, 23, of North Vassalboro, lost control of his southbound sedan with the girl inside, hitting a car driven by Aaron Athern, 38, of Union, head on. Two other drivers couldn’t stop to avoid the crash ahead.

“Icy roads have been problematic over the last few days and this was certainly one of those accidents,” Nason said. “It’s been really difficult with the conditions, with the cold weather, to treat these roads.”

Temperatures reached a high of 1 degree in Augusta on Thursday and Friday, according to Weather Underground, dropping as low as minus 9 degrees, with wind chills making it feel much colder. High temperatures were around 10 degrees on Saturday.

That’s problematic for road crews, as road salt only works to melt ice in temperatures 15 degrees or higher, approximately. Lesley Jones, Augusta’s public works director, said her crews have been sanding around the city over the past few days.

It is predicted to warm up Sunday and Monday, with highs reaching 31 and 43 degrees, respectively. Rain is expected Tuesday before temperatures drop back to the teens Tuesday. If it does warm up Sunday and Monday, Jones said her crews will scrape roads.

Sgt. Jason Cote of the Augusta Police Department said of the 50 weather-related calls, 30 were crashes on roads and 20 were slideoffs, with only one person transported to the hospital after an afternoon two-car crash on Whitten Road. Cote said four tractor-trailer trucks also got stuck on city roads, which were hard to gain traction on, especially for vehicles restarting while passing through traffic lights.

“Being as cold as it is, basically the snow compacted and just froze,” Cote said. “Hopefully the next couple days, it’ll be warmer and they can scrape (roads) down.”

That’s Jones’ goal, but she said once a deep cold sets in, it takes longer than perhaps expected for roads to warm back up.

“We sanded today. If it doesn’t warm up, we’ll sand tomorrow and go from there,” she said.

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652mshepherd@centralmaine.comTwitter: @mikeshepherdme
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