A mix of snow, rain and sleet that started Monday morning and lasted well into the evening caused widespread problems for drivers in southern Maine.
State police urged drivers to slow down Monday night as troopers reported that surfaces were very slick and dozens of cars had slid off roads.
An eight-vehicle crash on the Casco Bay Bridge snarled traffic coming into Portland from South Portland during rush hour. The accident occurred at 5:37 p.m.
Portland police Lt. Gary Hutcheson attributed the accident to slick pavement. He said a South Portland Transit bus collided with seven other vehicles. No one was injured but one lane of inbound traffic had to be shut down for about an hour. Several cars had to be towed.
In downtown Portland, sidewalks and streets became coated with ice Monday night, making it difficult for pedestrians to walk without slipping, and for drivers to go up and down hills.
Hutcheson said some streets on Munjoy Hill became so treacherous that the city had to close them for a while Monday night.
“We have been very busy tonight. We’ve had a lot of weather-related calls and a lot of people stuck,” he said.
In Saco, a driver got a scare when she lost control of her car on Route 1 near Flag Pond Road just before 8 p.m. The car slid off Route 1 and hit a pump at Holly’s gas station. The gas pump caught fire, said police Cpl. Michael Maksut. The woman was not injured.
Stacie Hanes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said it snowed in Portland until about 3 p.m., when the weather changed to rain.
About two hours after it started raining, the precipitation changed to a freezing drizzle in Portland, causing roads to ice up, Hanes said.
The weather service issued a winter weather advisory that remained in effect through 10 p.m., when precipitation was expected to end. The advisory warned drivers that roads would be icy and that they should use caution.
“Just because we lift the advisory doesn’t mean that the roads won’t be slick. It will be up to the road crews to put down the sand and salt,” Hanes said.
In York County, crews were salting and sanding roads on Monday night, according to the county dispatch center.
Monday’s snowfall prompted several school cancellations during the day before turning to a messy mix of snow, sleet and rain in most of the state. The Maine Turnpike Authority reported several crashes throughout the day, though none caused serious injuries.
The turnpike’s speed limit was lowered to 45 mph at 11 a.m., according to turnpike spokesman Dan Morin.
The storm caused numerous flight delays during the day. One cancellation of an evening departure from the Portland International Jetport was caused by worse conditions in cities farther south along the East Coast. The jetport remained open, said director Paul Bradbury.
“It was due to ancillary conditions in the mid-Atlantic,” Bradbury said early Monday evening. “For the most part, we’ve been able to re-accommodate, so there wasn’t a huge impact for our passengers.”
Bradbury said passengers booked for the canceled flight, United Airlines’ 4908 to Newark, N.J., at 5:27 p.m., were rebooked on a later, delayed flight scheduled to depart around 9 p.m.
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:
Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at: