December 28, 2010

Snow, wind whip capital region

AUGUSTA — It was a storm full of sound and fury, but brought relatively few casualties, outages or accidents.

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Caelan Lapointe jogs through Hallowell clad in a ski mask during the blizzard that brought high winds and snow Monday. Lapointe said he ran only a mile due to the bitter conditions.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

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Gardiner firefighters Captain David Smith, left, and Dustin Barry shovel out an engine bay at the city's station Monday during the blizzard that deposited more than a foot of snow throughout some parts of the state.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

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Depending on whether you were on the leeward or windward side of things, the blizzard that struck Maine late Sunday and all day Monday left tall snowdrifts here and nothing but bare ground there as it churned northeast into and beyond Maine.

Police across the state reported few accidents. Utilities reported only 120 customers without power at 1 p.m. Monday. None of those outages was in Kennebec County.

Crews had started preparing early while residents heeded warnings to lay low.

Lesley Jones, acting public works director for Augusta, said partial crews were out at 8 p.m. Sunday, sanding and treating roads to prepare for plowing.

A blizzard warning was issued, which meant officials expected snow and winds of at least 35 mph to reduce visibility to less than a quarter-mile for a period of at least three hours.

Jones said a crew of 25 was busy throughout the day Monday plowing the capital. She said two rubbish crews also were out, along with crews downtown that were shoveling sidewalks and stairs.

“There’s not that much snow — maybe eight inches. It’s just intense with the wind,” Jones said Monday.

“The guys are loving it because it’s a real snow storm,” she said. “They call it the big snow. They get tired of plowing the smaller roads. It was a good storm for us because it started late at night and people heeded suggestions of staying home unless they had to travel, and that was a tremendous help to us. Plus the State House and schools were closed.”

In Augusta, all the crews and 21 plow and sand trucks were on the road Monday to deal with the storm, said Jerry Dostie, who was appointed the city’s streets superintendent last week.

School vacations and the closure of state offices meant fewer motorists on the road Monday. “It’s much easier for us to get around with less traffic,” Dostie said.

A blizzard warning remained in effect from Sunday through 3 p.m. Monday in York, Cumberland, Androscoggin, Kennebec, Sagadahoc, Waldo, Lincoln, Knox, southern Oxford, southern Franklin and southern Somerset counties. Temperatures on Monday were in the upper 20s but winds howled at 25 to 35 mph, with gusts up to 50 mph, according to the National Weather Service in Gray.

National Weather Service forecaster Butch Roberts said the storm system grazed Cape Cod on Sunday night with winds similar to a Category 2 hurricane then headed toward the center of the Gulf of Maine on its way to strike Nova Scotia by sunset Monday.

“The one thing we’re going to see with this storm is that it’s going to be breezy right through (today),” he said. “As far as snow accumulation, it’s all over the place ... anywhere from 8 to 10 inches, and changing as we speak. And that’s because it’s drifting and blowing.”

Roberts predicted high pressure and slightly drier air to bring “fair weather and a warming trend” beginning today.

“That will help with cleanup a bit,” he said.                                                                

Maine State Police reported few problems on the roads Monday. Dispatchers got calls about a handful of vehicles sliding off the road, mostly along the Maine Turnpike and the interstates, but few collisions involved damage.  

A man was killed in Wells when his pickup went off the road and struck a tree Sunday night. Wells police investigated.

Sgt. Chris Massey with the Augusta Police Department said there were no major accidents in the city Monday.

“There hasn’t been anything,” Massey said Monday. “We had one small one earlier this morning and a couple of disabled vehicles. A lot of the stuff we’ve had to deal with today is with parked cars preventing plows from getting through.”

Central Maine Power Co. said outages peaked around 3,500 at 9 a.m. Monday, but that most of its customers had their power back on by noon Monday, when outages numbered only 120 across the state.

“Broken limbs and fallen trees cause most of the outages in storms like this, but so far, the temperatures have stayed low enough to keep the snow from sticking on the trees,” said John Carroll, CMP spokesman. “We’ve seen some snow buildup on trees in towns along Penobscot Bay causing some problems.”

The storm seemed to have its greatest impact between Boston and Philadelphia — halting traffic at major airports and rail lines for two days, stranding buses on buried highways and postponing professional sporting events.

In New York City, some subway passengers were stranded for hours on unheated trains that broke down overnight Sunday and finally pulled into a station at midday Monday. Meanwhile, wind gusts as high as 80 mph knocked out power to thousands.

Staff Writer Betty Adams and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Additional Photos

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Andrew Averill, right, waits for a gust of snow to subside while skiing Monday with his nephew, Green Averill, near the latter's home in Hallowell. Whiteout conditions persisted throughout the Monday blizzard.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy


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