December 17, 2013

Snow gives an encore in Maine as deep freeze lingers

An intense snow band hits southern Maine, reducing visibility to near-zero.

From Staff And News Services

With snow falling in Maine, the Maine Turnpike Authority has lowered its speed limit to 45 mph, and Portland announced a citywide parking ban from 10 p.m. Tuesday until 6 a.m. Wednesday.

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An employee uses a snowblower to clear the parking lot at the Department of Health and Human Services on on Marginal Way in Portland on Tuesday, just in time for more snow that is headed for Maine.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Ron Langway of Portland cleans snow from the sidewalks around the Nickelodeon movie theater Monday. Langway works for the management company that owns the building. More snow is expected Tuesday.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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At 7:25 p.m. meterologist Dave Epstein reported that an intense snow band was dumping snow at a rate of about 2 inches per hour, creating near-zero visibility just north of Portland.

The latest storm made its way into southwestern New England by late Tuesday morning and gradually track northeastward. Parts of Maine could see upward of 9 inches by the time the storm pushes off the coast Wednesday afternoon, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Hawley in Gray.

Most of the region will see 4 to 8 inches of snow.

Other communities also announced parking bans, including Biddeford, from 8 p.m. Tuesday to 7 a.m. Wednesday, and Saco, from 11 p.m. Tuesday to 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Mainers awoke to a deep freeze as overnight temperatures bottomed out at minus-5 at Portland International Jetport. Although winds were light, the wind chill still registered a minus 15, according to the National Weather Service. The weather service forecasts the temperature to rise into the teens to low 20s Tuesday.

Temperatures were below zero for many parts of the region Tuesday morning – including minus 27 in Berlin, N.H., and Saranac Lake, N.Y., – and 10 to 15 degrees below normal for this time of year. Temperatures will start to rise as the weekend approaches and could hit 60 in Boston by Sunday, Hawley said.

In Lewiston and Auburn, the extreme cold temporarily shut down the bus system after sub-zero temperatures froze air lines that run hydraulic and steering systems.

It was so cold in Maine that power cables snapped in at least two locations – one in Cumberland County, the other in Somerset County – leaving about 950 homes and businesses without electricity and heat for a couple of hours in subzero temperatures.

“The wires can contract so much to the point that they snap. If it gets super cold, that can happen,” said Gail Rice, a spokeswoman for Central Maine Power.

Crews from travel agency AAA, which provides roadside assistance, were stretched thin to deal with an unusually high number of calls for assistance.

Patrick Moody, spokesman for AAA Northern New England, which encompasses Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, said the three states average between 1,500 and 2,000 calls on a normal winter day. On Monday, AAA Northern New England provided service to nearly 4,500 vehicles and Moody said he expected that number to be eclipsed by day’s end Tuesday.

“We’ve been taking 200 calls every half hour,” he said. “Everyone has been pulled in. I’m dispatching right now.”

Moody said AAA hires seasonal staff every winter anyway and most are working this week. The travel agency works with a network of contractors to provide assistance.

“Our contractors are all doing the same thing. Staffing up, making sure their equipment is ready to go,” he said.

On Monday, there were many calls from people who got their vehicles stuck in the remnants of the weekend snowstorm. Most of the calls on Tuesday were what Moody called “cold-related” calls, typically jump starts for dead car batteries.

“Batteries last on average about three to five years, so if you haven’t had it checked, it’s a good idea,” he said. “Also, people should reduce the amount of load on the battery. So if you can unplug that car charger, you should probably do it.”

Moody also said motorists should keep an eye on their tires to ensure they are properly inflated and have enough tread.

Crews across the Northeast continued to clean up from a weekend storm.

“My feeling is it’s wonderful,” Tony Hartigan said as he walked quickly across Main Street in Concord, N.H. He wore no hat or gloves despite the bank thermometer over his shoulder that blinked 3 degrees. “It packs the ski resorts, it’s pretty for Christmas and I spent last week in Florida so I didn’t see it!”

Some school districts in Connecticut, including Waterbury, Danbury and Torrington, were closed Tuesday, while some districts in Massachusetts, including Worcester, North Andover and Framingham, said they’d dismiss students early, and afternoon and evening programs were canceled. There were parking bans in some communities.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he would partially activate the state’s Emergency Operations Center on Tuesday to monitor conditions ahead of the afternoon rush hour.

Snow was falling through the evening commute and blustery winds could cut down visibility, according to the weather service.

The weather forced officials to lower the speed limit to 45 mph on the New Jersey Turnpike, and on a section of the Garden State Parkway. United Airlines canceled flights arriving from and departing for Newark, N.J., Tuesday morning and early afternoon.

In western New York, a car crashed on a snowy road, killing the 23-year-old driver and injuring four students and the bus driver.

Hawley said the storm should end in southern New England by about 6 a.m. Wednesday and finally push off the coast of Maine by early afternoon. Once this system leaves, temperatures will gradually rise and bring rain, snow or a mix of both over the weekend.

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Additional Photos

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A Skowhegan Highway Department snowblower clears snow from the ice-covered walking bridge Tuesday. Freezing spray from the Kennebec River covered nearby tree limbs with ice.

David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

  


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