December 23, 2013

Central Maine residents stay home as storm coats area with ice

Outages in Kennebec and Somerset counties climb, Waterville stores close and Santa stays home, as freezing rain continues to fall.

By Matt Hongoltz-hetling And Keith Edwards
Staff Writers

Many residents in central Maine were left without power on a slippery, messy Sunday as freezing rain coated the roads, trees and power lines in a storm that was expected to continue into Monday.

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ICEY DICEY: A snowplow clears Mayflower Hill Drive in Waterville as a major ice storm rolls through the state on Sunday morning.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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ICEY DICEY: A lone car drives north on Interstate 95 in Waterville as a dangerous wintry mix of ice and snow falls on Sunday morning.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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Central Maine Power reported fluctuating numbers of power outages throughout the morning, peaking at about 11 a.m., when 4,500 customers, mostly in Somerset and Kennebec counties, were without power.

Eric Schwibs, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said the Augusta and Waterville areas could end up with about a half inch of ice accumulating by storm’s end Monday.

Schwibs said occasional freezing rain is likely to continue into Monday, caused by a weather system featuring cold air near the surface and warm air above that and stalled over the area. Around 11:30 a.m., Schwibs reported temperatures of 26 degrees in Augusta and 40 degrees on top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire at more than 6,000 feet, New England’s highest point.

“That’s a classic setup for freezing rain,” Schwibs said. “It just keeps adding up.”

He said more power outages could be expected as more precipitation falls and sticks to trees, adding weight to branches and potentially snapping them, or toppling trees.

Maine emergency officials advised people to check in on friends and neighbors who may need assistance. They advised against travel, warning icy roads and falling trees and power lines will make travel dangerous.

While the intensity of the storm Sunday was not as bad as forecasts initially predicted, its anticipated duration was longer, with Sunday forecasts calling for the precipitation to continue into early Monday.

On Monday, Schwibs said, freezing rain will continue into the first part of the morning, with conditions improving into the afternoon. A clearing trend is expected to start Monday, which could allow some ice to melt, but only briefly. That’s because things will then get colder, with lows in the teens expected Monday night, highs of around 20 degrees Tuesday, and on Christmas Eve, a low of 4 degrees.

In Franklin County, Emergency Management Director Tim Hardy said it seemed like most members of the public were heeding warnings to avoid the roads.

“That’s my sense,” he said. “I just came back from the office a few minutes ago, and there isn’t much vehicle traffic on the roads.”

All throughout Oakland and into parts of Belgrade, there was little mid-morning traffic on Route 11, which was covered so thoroughly with the wintry mix that not an inch of blacktop could be seen for miles.

The few vehicles on the road traveled slowly past trees and bushes with sagging branches.

The vegetation, parked cars and homes throughout the region were coated in a thick, textured shellac that stubbornly resisted efforts to scrape it off car windows.

Hardy said that, as of Sunday morning, things were going better than expected — so far.

He said he was having regular conference calls with the Maine Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service and was in turn passing information along to local response teams.

On Sunday morning, the weather service extended the duration of the ice storm watch from Monday morning to noon on Monday.

On Sunday afternoon, Bruce Harmon, a resident of Benton, was busy scraping the ice off the windshield and windows of his car, which he had parked on Waterville’s Main Street while he attended a Christmas party.

In the two hours since he’d parked it, he said, the car had accumulated a new layer of ice brought on by the freezing rain.

It was slow work, with each inch of ice removed a hard-fought battle, but he said he didn’t mind.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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ICEY DICEY: Ray Pelkey, 27, of Waterville, wanders the streets during Sunday morning’s storm.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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ICEY DICEY: Icicles drip from the edges of picnic tables at Quarry Road Recreational Area in Waterville on Sunday morning.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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ICEY DICEY: Traffic moves slowly on Kennedy Memorial Drive in Waterville early Sunday morning as a major ice storm grips the area.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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