February 9, 2013

Central Maine battered as high wind, single-digit temperatures and blowing snow pick up overnight.

Big whallop expected Saturday; Turnpike, other roads to remain open; LePage declares limited emergency; region's residents urged to stay home

By Craig Crosby ccrosby@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer


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Rescue workers and firefighters extract a driver from a vehicle that lost control and rolled over into nearby woods on Route 8, near McGrath Pond Road in Belgrade, Friday afternoon.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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Linda Lesieur sweeps snow off the sidewalk on Friday in front of the Earthbound shop on Water Street in downtown Hallowell.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Additional Photos Below

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 Wind and snow picked up overnight in central Maine as the blizzard that caused power outages and accidents as it surged north through New England came to life overnight Friday and into Saturday morning.

Some 350.000 power outages were reported in New York and New England by early Saturday morning, but Central Maine power reported only a handful in the state.

The Centers for Disease Control issues a warning for the entire state, however, that homeowners who find themselves without power take precautions, including not heating a home with a gas oven or grill, keeping generatorss outdoors and not touching downed power lines.

The National Weather Service in Gray forecast blowing snow throughout the night, heavy at times, with accumulations of 18 to 24 inches by the time the storm winds down Saturday morning and early afternoon.

Wind was expected to be up to 20 miles an hour, with gusts of up to 50 miles an hour.

Temperatures dropped into the single numbers overnight and were expected to not get higher than the 20s Saturday.

The roads were reported to be generally quiet, but police and rescue crews dealt with a handful of accidents as Friday night wore on.

Late Friday afternoon, a driver was trapped in an overturned car on Route 8 in North Belgrade in an accident that was believed to be storm-related.

The driver was pinned in the overturned car on Route 8, McGrath Pond Road, and Jaws of Life from Oakland rescue had to be used. There was no other information, including the driver’s  name, available at press time.

Gov. Paul LePage signed a limited emergency declaration Friday afternoon, waiving federal Department of Transportation rules and extending the hours of service for utility workers, and allowing additional crews from Canada to assist with repairs.

“This effort will allow power crews to restore power in areas that sustain damage,” LePage said in a prepared statement. “The ability to have electrical service repaired quickly is critical to protect public health and safety of Mainers.”

Police and rescue crews by early Friday afternoon had already responded to dozens of accidents across the region, including a three-car accident in Skowhegan, though none of those crashes appeared to cause serious injury. One person was taken to the hospital after a 19-car pileup on Interstate 295 in Cumberland. 

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick issued a state of emergency banning travel in that state after 4 p.m., but no such action was being considered for Maine. 

Maine Turnpike Authority Spokesman Dan Morin said Friday afternoon there had been rumors that the Turnpike would close, but he said “there has been absolutely no discussion” about closing the highway. Ted Talbot, spokesman for the Department of Transportation, which oversees Interstate 95, said the highway will remain open. He said no one at the agency can recall the state’s Interstate closing.

Both Talbot and Morin advised people to stay off the roads unless travel is absolutely necessary.  

Richard Beausoleil, director of Kennebec County Emergency Management, echoed those sentiments. 

“If they get stuck in the road they can’t get the ambulances by, the fire trucks by, they’re impeding emergency vehicles attempting to help people,” he said. “There’s no reason to be out driving around in this stuff.” 

Beausoleil said neither his agency nor the American Red Cross was planning to open shelters. He said individual communities may open shelters if the need arises. 

“This doesn’t look like anything that’s going to require any shelter,” Beausoleil said. 

The storm’s arrival Friday prompted an avalanche of cancellations and early closures. Most schools in central Maine sent students home by midday, the state Legislature and county courts closed around noon, and state government offices closed at 3. 

Some Northeast wireless customers received an alert on their phone about the storm. The alert system, called the Wireless Emergency Alert system, allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service to deliver warning messages to wireless subscribers. Some Verizon Wireless customers received alerts early Friday morning. 

Beausoleil said his agency continues to monitor updates from the National Weather Service and forwarding information to town officials county-wide.

Communities that have parking bans were making plans to enforce them. Gardiner’s ban began at 6 p.m. Friday and will expire at 6 p.m. tonight. Augusta’s parking ban is set to begin at 7 a.m. Saturday and expire at 7 a.m. Sunday.  Waterville's is also in effect, expiring at 7 a.m. Sunday.

Forecasters are calling for sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 20s on Sunday before another chance of a rain and snow mix arrives Monday and Tuesday.

“This is a typical Maine winter. It doesn’t look like anything outstanding,” Beausoleil said. “Two feet of snow is not really a big deal for this part of Maine.” 

Craig Crosby — 621-5642


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Additional Photos

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A flashing sign on Water Street announces the parking ban on all streets in the city of Gardiner starting at 6 pm. on Friday.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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McGee construction employee Mike Abbott clears snow on Water Street in Augusta on Friday.

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Quincy Tobias, left, 9, and Sam Crilly, 6, shovel snow in front of The Hair Gallery, where both their mothers work, on Water Street in downtown Augusta on Friday, during the winter storm in downtown Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Buses leave Cony High School at 10:45 a.m. on Friday as students were released early for the winter storm in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Jason McFarland shovels snow off the deck of Gagliano's restaurant around 11:15 a.m. on Friday, during the winter storm in downtown Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Cars drive in on Pierce Drive as buses leave Cony High School at 10:45 a.m. on Friday. Students were released early for the winter storm in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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