PORTLAND — A winter storm that struck at daybreak Wednesday and lasted into the evening hours dropped between 3 to 5 inches of snow on most of Maine and caused several traffic accidents.
Two of the more severe crashes involved tractor-trailer trucks – one in the northbound lane of the Maine Turnpike in Wells and the other in the southbound lane of Interstate 295 in Yarmouth.
The truck crashes caused traffic to back up for several miles on both highways, according to police.
State police spokesman Steve McCausland said the Yarmouth crash happened late Wednesday morning after a driver cut off a tractor-trailer, causing it to jackknife across the road. The southbound lanes between Exit 17 and the Royal River had to be shut down for more than two hours.
Traffic backed up into Freeport, affecting hundreds of drivers, who were forced to take a detour onto Route 1 in Yarmouth.
Interstate 295 did not reopen until 1:40 p.m. The truck’s driver, Adrian Hutchinson, 35, of West Palm Beach, Fla., was not injured.
In the Wells crash, a tractor-trailer heading northbound on the Maine Turnpike jackknifed around 1 p.m. It was snowing heavily at the time.
Dan Morin, a spokesman for the Maine Turnpike Authority, said the truck went through the guardrail and wound up in one of the southbound lanes. All three northbound lanes were blocked for about two hours. Traffic had to use the northbound breakdown lane to get around the truck.
A school bus and car collided on Middle Road in the York County town of Waterboro around 2:30 p.m.
William L. King Jr., chief deputy for the York County Sheriff’s Office, said it took place near Massabesic High School and none of the 34 students aboard the bus was injured.
A transportation official for Regional School Unit 57 referred questions to the superintendent, who was not immediately available for comment.
Police dispatchers received reports of multiple accidents and cars sliding off roads throughout the day.
Asked where the worst problems could be found, a Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher said, “everywhere.”
The city of Portland received 5 inches of snow on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service in Gray. That prompted the city to declare a citywide parking ban, which took effect at 10 p.m.
The ban will give public works crews the time and space they need to clear snow from city streets. It will remain in effect until 6 a.m. Thursday.
Vehicles left on the street during the ban will be towed to the city’s impound lot at the Ocean Gateway International Marine Terminal. Owners trying to get their cars back will face fines of up to $135, plus any outstanding parking tickets.
Snowfall amounts varied widely. Gorham also got 5 inches, Gray recorded 4.2 inches, Otisfield in Oxford County received 3 inches, and in Camden, where snow turned to rain, just 2.8 inches of snow fell.
Eric Schwibs, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, predicted a quiet weather day for Thursday.
But Schwibs warned that by Thursday afternoon and evening an arctic cold front will force temperatures in Portland and other areas to dip as low as zero.
“It’s going to be our first shot of arctic air. The wind chill will make it feel like it’s below zero,” he said.
Temperatures in the mountains could drop to 15 to 20 degrees below zero.
Schwibs said the cold air will move out on Friday, with temperatures in the 20-degree ranged expected.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: