February 27, 2013

Central Maine schools, highway workers, CMP prepare for storm

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

 Schools in central Maine closed Wednesday or planned early closings, highway workers were rested and ready and Central Maine Power Co. was on watch as the late winter storm approached.
The National Weather Service in Gray predicted the storm would start around noon and drop 6 to 8 inches of snow in Waterville and Augusta and 10 to 14 in Skowhegan, with less toward the coast.
Meteorologist Margaret Curtis said temperatures were expected to be around 30 degrees in central Maine and she would not be surprised to see a little sleet and rain mixed in with the snow.
“Tonight, we’ll go to all snow through the overnight,” she said. “It’ll be winding down by tomorrow morning and tomorrow afternoon, with just a little bit of flurries and showers in the area.”
While several school districts Wednesday had not made a decision as to whether they would close early, School Administrative District 9 in Farmington closed for the day.
School districts based in Waterville, Fairfield, Oakland and Newport planned to close between 11:30 a.m. and noon.
CMP spokesman John Carroll said the storm had the potential to drop six inches to a foot of heavy, sticky snow that could be problematic and cause trees and limbs to break and fall on lines.
“Once that builds up on the trees, it becomes a problem for us,” Carroll said.
The past weekend storm produced more light and fluffy snow that did not break trees and limbs.
“We think that this has a higher likelihood of that than the previous storm,” Carroll said.
Meanwhile, Waterville Public Works Director Mark Turner said equipment had been checked and plow drivers were rested and ready for what lay ahead.
“We try to plan and manage the personnel so they don’t get over tired and out too long,” Turner said.
Drivers would work through rush hour traffic Wednesday and if conditions allowed, they would be sent home to rest before going back out around 3 a.m. Thursday to clear roads as well as school, city  and shopping center parking lots, according to Turner.
“They can pretty much handle anything that comes at us,” he said of his crew.
Skowhegan Road Commissioner Greg Dore said that before storms arrive, he makes sure the department has enough salt, sand and other products needed to get through the event.
He does not worry so much about how much snow is predicted, but about when the storm is going to start, what the temperature is expected to be and what kind of snow is coming, he said.
If snow is light and fluffy, sometimes plow drivers can let it build up a bit before going out on the roads, but heavy, wet snow presents a different scenario all together, according to Dore.
“That means we’re going to have to stay with it,” he said.
Dore says he goes online before a storm and checks the National Weather Service, Accuweather and the Weather Channel and stays in close contact with the National Weather Service in Gray.
“Once the storm is here, their accuracy is 99 percent,” he said.
Highway department, weather and Central Maine Power officials stay connected, he said.
“We all work together very well,” he said. “CMP helps us a lot and we help them whenever we can.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247
acalder@centralmaine.com

 

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