Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Rachel Ohm firstname.lastname@example.org
Preparations were underway for another winter storm on Tuesday afternoon while much of the area was still recovering from heavy snowfall and below freezing temperatures earlier in the week.
ICY COLD: A Skowhegan Highway Department snowblower clears snow from the ice-covered walking bridge on Tuesday. Freezing spray from the Kennebec River covered nearby tree limbs with ice.
Staff photo by David Leaming
COLD RUSH: Warm breath turned to cold vapor as Laurie Laliberte and delivery driver Peter Schultz waited outside to receive packages from a United Parcel Service truck on a frigid day in Waterville on Tuesday.
Staff photo by David Leaming
Augusta overnight low temperature: -7
Augusta record low for Dec. 17: -12, set in 1951
Farmington overnight low temperature: -19
Farmington record low for Dec. 17: -26, set in 1951
Waterville overnight low temperature: -11
Waterville record low for Dec. 17: -23, set in 1951source: National Weather Service.
The Augusta and Waterville area is expected to get between six and eight inches of snow by late Wednesday morning, according to meteorologist Tom Hawley at the National Weather Service in Gray.
On Sunday, the first significant snowfall of the season dumped 9.5 inches in Augusta, 11.1 in Farmington and 6.6 in Waterville, said Hawley.
Temperatures Tuesday morning rivaled record lows for the area, driving many people indoors, causing car troubles and cutting off power to several hundred customers in Somerset County. In Augusta, the temperature dropped to 7 below zero at 6:53 a.m. and Waterville was at 11 below between 6:15 and 7:30 Tuesday, according to the NWS weather observation site. The overnight temperature in Farmington reached 19 below zero, said Hawley.
In Embden, a power line that froze in the cold weather cut off electricity to about 815 customers of Central Maine Power on Tuesday morning, said spokeswoman Gail Rice. On extremely cold days the wires contract, which can cause them to snap, she said. The outage happened around 8:30 a.m. and power was restored in about half an hour, said Rice.
At Trinity Church Men’s Homeless Shelter in Skowhegan, staff worker Tracey Steward said the 24-hour shelter was nearly full, with 70 men from around the area as well as out-of-state staying there Tuesday night.
“It’s not the worst place you could be,” said Mike Walker, who is staying at the shelter, just before lunch on Tuesday. “I think the cold weather definitely contributes to it. People don’t want to be out in the cold, and here you have a bed to sleep in and two square meals a day.”
Crews from travel agency AAA, which provides roadside assistance, were also stretched thin to deal with an unusually high number of calls for assistance.
Patrick Moody, spokesman for AAA Northern New England, which includes 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 whose vehicles were 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 3-5 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.
The Skowhegan library has also been busier than normal, said library director Dale Jandreau. He said the cold weather can mean that the library, a public building where the heat is always turned on during daytime hours, is very busy or not busy at all.
“When it’s too cold people don’t come out until later. Other times I get here in the morning and they’re outside the door waiting to come warm up a little,” he said.
Jandreau said he never asks what brings people into the library on a cold day, but when temperatures are consistently low the building is usually busier, he said.
“Maybe they are coming in to do business or maybe just to get warm. Either way we are a public building. If people want to turn the temperature down in their home, they can come here and read the paper or use a computer,” he said.
Tuesday’s storm is expected to hit the coast somewhat harder with snowfall totals in Rockland expected to be between eight and 10 inches, said Hawley. Waterville is expected to get between six and eight inches and Farmington three to six, he said.
Augusta is also expected to get five to eight inches.
The storm should move in around 8 p.m. Tuesday and last until late morning Wednesday, said Hawley.
“It should snow through the night and not end until 10 or noon on Wednesday. I’m sure there will be school cancellations,” he said.
The snow will bring with it a slight rise in temperatures, said Hawley.
“It will be cloudy and snow will be developing so temperatures won’t go down much. We’re looking at lows between 10 and 12 degrees,” said Hawley.
Wednesday should be warmer, with highs in the upper 20s and temperatures continuing to warm up through the week, with highs reaching into the mid-30s by Friday, he said.
In Waterville, public works crews were nearly caught up with storm cleanup from the weekend storm by Tuesday afternoon, said Public Works Director Mark Turner. “There are a few sidewalks that we’re finishing up this afternoon and then it starts all over again,” said Turner. “Hopefully it won’t be as bad as last weekend.”
Portland Press Herald staff writer Eric Russell contributed to this report.Rachel Ohm— email@example.com
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TOO COLD: Below zero temperatures in Skowhegan prevented Job Fitzgerald from starting his car Tuesday, even with the help of a jump start. After repeated attempts Fitzgerald went back inside his warm house.
Staff photo by David Leaming