December 27, 2012

Central Maine gets creamed, but closures minimize snowstorm's impact

School vacations, state offices closures and assorted shutdowns helped keep people off slick roads, which claimed many fender-benders

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Lonely commutes made for few accidents on central Maine roads covered by the biggest snowstorm so far this season Thursday.

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Aaron Richards dashes to the next spot to shovel Thursday December 27, 2012 while cleaning up snow at the West Gardiner Service Plaza and Rest Area. Workers were digging Maine Turnpike travelers out of a foot snow at the plaza, which is adorned with several sculptures, including moose and bear. "I should have a face mask," Richards said of shoveling in the high winds.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

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Bruce Heath, owner of KB Property Care, clears the sidewalk in front of Kennebec Federal Savings Bank on Main Street in downtown Waterville on Thursday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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Gov. Paul LePage closed state offices because of the storm, while schools are closed for vacation.

"Any time the school's not open or the state's not open," said Hallowell Police Chief Eric Nason. "It reduces the traffic and reduces the problems we have on the roads." He said there were no accidents in the city in the morning, just stuck cars.

Early in the day, sheriff's offices in Franklin, Kennebec and Somerset counties reported a handful of weather-related car accidents, none with injuries.

Kennebec County Sheriff's Cpl. G.J. Neagle said the department responded to two weather-related accidents by 5:30 p.m. with no injuries reported. He attributed the lack of accidents to a low volume of traffic and slow driving.

A tractor-trailer rolled over on Route 27 in Farmington around 6 p.m., but few details were available by press time. No injuries were reported in that accident.

Earlier in the afternoon, a dispatcher with the Maine State Police's capital-area troop said most of the accident's she heard about were minor, involving cars sliding off roads. But she said the number of accidents picked up into the afternoon and troopers were busy responding to them.

In Augusta, Steve Leach, a fire department battalion chief, said by afternoon the department had been called to just one accident -- a woman who drove her car into a ditch off of exit 109A, between Interstate 95 and Western Avenue. Leach said she was taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center for minor injuries.

Around the same time, Maine State Police responded to an accident 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.

Power in central Maine wasn't much affected by the storm during the day. By 5:55 p.m., Central Maine Power reported 125 outages in Kennebec and Franklin counties combined, with all but one of those in Rangeley and Hallowell. Sagadahoc County had more than 1,400 customers without power shortly before 6.

"I think the snow stayed dry, and that made a big difference," said CMP spokesman John Carroll, adding that lower-than-forecast wind speeds, frozen ground and the company's limb-trimming efforts in recent years kept trees and limbs away from most utility lines.

Michael Cempa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said Thursday afternoon that the projected totals were tracking lower than expected, with Kennebec, Somerset and Franklin counties expected to get 8-14 inches by the time the storm ended overnight.

Cempa said going into the evening, the farther north, the greater the potential for accumulation, because snow was predicted to last longer into the night, so places like Skowhegan should end up with totals on the high end of the regional prediction.

As of 3 p.m., Cempa said Augusta had 6 inches of snow, while some locations near the western Maine-New Hampshire border had a foot.

"The heavier snow was concentrated into a smaller area," he said. "Those were the lucky or unlucky ones, depending on how you view the snow."

Many government offices in central Maine shut down because of the weather.

Waterville and Richmond municipal offices closed early Thursday, while offices in Farmington, Skowhegan, Litchfield, Manchester, Windsor, Wayne, Readfield, Jay, Winslow and Phillips all were also closed, or closed early.

John Guimond, manager of the Augusta State Airport, said all three Thursday flights from Augusta to Boston were canceled and today's flights will likely be delayed. He said crews worked Thursday to get runways ready for those flights. At the Portland International Jetport, about a third of flights were canceled and many others were delayed, according to marketing manager Gregory Hughes.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Ozy Pucciarelli, 2, samples snowflakes on Thursday, while being towed in a sled through Augusta by his mother, Izzy Pucciarelli.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

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J.J. Burns, 2, center, pelts his mother, Melissa, with a snowball as she helps his big brother, Ian, 5, make a snowball during a winter storm on St. John Street in Winslow on Thursday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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People watch as their car is pulled from the woods on Interstate 95's southbound lanes, just south of Exit 127 near Oakland, on Thursday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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Dr. Nate Murray-James runs back to his Hallowell office on Thursday, after running a quick errand between seeing patients at Hallowell Family Practice. Most offices and schools were closed during the storm that dumped up to a foot of snow across Maine.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

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Kaitlin Blair, 13, center, and Madison Klowes, 13, left, get their nails done by Brandy Pham, 40, right, at DK Nails on Main Street in Waterville on Thursday. DK Nails was offering a special snow sale to help boost sales.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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Nancy Karter, of Fairfield, holds her hood as she walks down Main Street in downtown Waterville on Thursday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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A man battles through the snow on a walk down South Main Street in Waterville on Thursday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

  


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