PORTLAND — While snow and ice on Maine roads are making this winter hard enough for drivers, growing snowbanks at almost every intersection and parking lot exit are adding to the ordeal.

The piles are blocking views and forcing drivers to pull out nearly into traffic to see if the coast is clear.

“It’s hard just to make a left-hand turn,” said Bethany Pinkham of Westbrook as she eased out of the Forest Avenue Plaza parking lot onto busy Forest Avenue on Tuesday, with snow falling and the forecast calling for another foot or more today.

This year’s series of storms has created white mountains seemingly everywhere: along the sides of roads, lining driveways, in people’s yards, and in the corners of parking lots.

The lot on Somerset Street where Portland dumps snow from downtown is full, so city workers are hauling loads to vacant land near the Portland International Jetport.

The snow is narrowing roads and forcing people to reconsider simple maneuvers, like backing a car into the street.

“We literally can’t get out of the driveway … without doing a nine-point turn and going in reverse and forward over and over,” said Martha Bryon, who lives on Spruce Street in Portland’s West End.

She is worried that she may soon need every second as she leaves her home, picks her way to the driveway on the icy sidewalk, squeezes into her car and gets on the road: Bryon is eight months pregnant.

Being a native Mainer, she’s not shocked by so much snow. But she said the snowbanks this year have spilled back into the road and hardened, narrowing it to the point where a car parked across from her driveway nearly locks her car in place.

“Our street has become a one-way street,” she said. “It’s all par for the course if you live in Maine, but it’s an issue of safety.”

Bryon said city officials haven’t been very responsive to her concerns. But this week, those officials were focused on the next storm.

Most of southern Maine is expected to get buried today by a storm that forecasters are predicting will drop a foot of snow or more.

John Cannon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said the snow should be light and fluffy, with the potential during the afternoon for a brief period – possibly one or two hours – of snow pellets. Pellets are like sleet, but much harder.

People who venture outdoors can expect cold temperatures and a northeast wind that will blow the snow around. The highs are only expected to reach 20 degrees.

Cannon said the snow should taper to flurries after dark.

Cannon said another storm, forecast for Saturday, could be large enough to produce plowable snow. And another storm, bringing mixed precipitation, could strike Maine on Tuesday.

Even as a few inches of snow fell Tuesday – a precursor to today’s big storm – Portland’s crews were scooping up piles downtown and depositing the snow in dump trucks to get it off narrow roads on the peninsula.

Taking that snow to the lot near the jetport is expensive and time-consuming. With the Somerset Street lot filled, officials are looking around the peninsula for other places to dump snow, city spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said.

Given the city’s own problems dealing with the snow, City Manager Joseph Gray decided Tuesday to cut homeowners some slack this week.

The city normally requires that sidewalks in front of homes be shoveled within 24 hours of the conclusion of the city’s snow operations. In other words, once the plows are done, homeowners have 24 hours to do their part.

Gray signed a declaration that gives homeowners 72 hours after this week’s storm to get the shoveling done. Assuming the city plows finish Thursday, that will give homeowners until the end of the weekend, Clegg said.

“We are aware that people are struggling with the snow, just as we are struggling with it and finding places to put it,” she said.

That struggle has even overwhelmed a program that lines up volunteers – mostly high school kids and pre-release prisoners from the Cumberland County Jail – and senior citizens with sidewalks that have to be shoveled.

“My phone has been ringing off the hook,” said Jane Sheedy, 75, who organized the FREE Senior Snow Shoveling Project. She now has about 90 volunteers clearing sidewalks for 150 senior citizens in Portland.

Sheedy said the program was sparked by a very simple reaction to the city’s policy of fining homeowners who don’t clear their sidewalks: “I think that’s mean,” she said.

Even with all those volunteers, Sheedy said, “I have a waiting list now, something I’ve never had in five years of running this.”

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: [email protected]