Freezing rain Saturday caused dozens of motorists to slide off roads across the state, according to police, who said weather also was a factor in a two-vehicle crash in Hollis that killed two people.
Maine State Police said a van driven by a 17-year-old crossed into oncoming traffic on slush-covered Route 117 Saturday afternoon and crashed into a pickup truck. Two passengers in the van were killed.
The driver of the van and the two people in the pickup were all injured and taken to area hospitals. They are expected to survive their injuries, said Stephen McCausland, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.
McCausland said the identities of the two who died in the accident will be released once relatives are notified. He said the people in the pickup truck were David Devore, 29, and Brittany Stacey, 24, both of Limington.
The road remained closed early Saturday night.
Roads all across Maine were closed for parts of the day. Even highway department trucks spreading salt and sand had trouble staying on the road when freezing rain that had been expected to end by midday hung on into the afternoon, leaving slick layers of ice on state roads and highways. The speed limit on the Maine Turnpike from Falmouth to Augusta was lowered to 45 mph nearly all day before it was finally raised back to 65 mph around 7 p.m. as temperatures climbed above freezing.
A 10-mile section of that stretch of the turnpike was shut down for 10 hours Saturday while crews removed the debris from an early-morning crash in Falmouth involving four tractor-trailers and a passenger vehicle. Police said the accident was caused by ice on the highway.
Dan Morin, the turnpike spokesman, said no one was seriously injured but one of the tractor-trailer drivers had to be extracted from the cab of his truck and all five drivers were taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland for treatment of their injuries.
State police said the crash happened shortly before 4 a.m. when one of the tractor-trailers jackknifed, creating a chain reaction in the southbound lanes.
Three of the tractor-trailers crashed into the guardrail and came to rest facing north. Two of the three rolled over, with their cargo spilling out. The passenger vehicle landed in the median and the fourth tractor-trailer crashed into the guardrail but remained facing south.
The reason for the icy roads was stubborn cold air near the surface that froze the rain as it came down, said Bob Marine, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray.
“It took quite a while for the cold, dense air to be pushed out,” Marine said. That finally occurred across most of the state late in the afternoon, shortly before sunset. Marine said temperatures at the weather office rose 12 degrees, from just below freezing into the 40s, in about 15 minutes around 4 p.m. By early Saturday evening, the temperature was in the upper 40s.
Officials had worried that a sudden warm-up would cause ice jams and flooding of Maine rivers, but Marine said there were no reports of any flooding by early Saturday night and those concerns were easing, even though rain was expected to continue falling until around midnight.
He said the rain was not as heavy as had been forecast and most of the rain that fell was absorbed by the snowpack, rather than running off into streams and rivers.
Marine said freezing rain should disappear as a problem overnight, with temperatures expected to remain above freezing, and a forecast for Sunday calling for temperatures in the mid-40s and some sunshine, conditions that are expected to be repeated on Monday.
But earlier Saturday, the icy conditions caused dozens of vehicles to skid and slide off roads across Maine and police closed many roads due to accidents or as a precaution.
In York County, a section of Route 11 in Shapleigh from the foot of Mousam Lake to the Shapleigh Fire Department was shut down shortly before 9 a.m. following a multi-vehicle crash. It was reopened by early afternoon. Roads in Limington and Limerick were temporarily shut because of icing Saturday morning.
A York County dispatcher said Maine Department of Transportation vehicles and a York County deputy sheriff’s cruiser slipped off roads.
Police cars also went off roads in Augusta and Somerset County. Three highway trucks slid off the road in Winthrop Saturday morning and had to wait until private contractors arrived to spread sand and salt.
There were no serious injuries in any of those incidents, authorities said.
In Cumberland County, Broadturn Road in Scarborough was closed at Ashwamp Road for several hours while utility crews repaired a snapped utility pole damaged by an unknown vehicle overnight. The road reopened shortly after noon.
A section of County Road in Gorham was briefly shut down Saturday because of slick conditions but reopened Saturday afternoon.
The state police dispatcher in Gray said state troopers responded to widespread slip-offs because of the ice.
In Hancock County, sections of Route 1A in Dedham and Route 9 in Amherst were shut down because of ice.
By early afternoon Piscataquis County was the scene of traffic mayhem as dozens of vehicles slid off icy roads. No one was hurt, said a county dispatcher. Penobscot County dispatchers also reported numerous spin-outs on area roads but no serious injuries.
A Delta passenger jet arriving from LaGuardia Airport in New York skidded on ice after landing at Bangor International Airport about 1 p.m. Saturday.
An airport official said the plane skidded onto the grass on a taxiway as it was headed to the terminal.
No one was hurt, there was no damage and other flights were not affected by the incident, the official said.
At one point, about 6,000 Central Maine Power Co. customers were without electricity early Saturday night, but by 7:30 p.m., that number had fallen to fewer than 1,500, primarily in Piscataquis and Somseret counties.
Emera Maine, formerly known as Bangor Hydro Electric Co. and Maine Public Service Co., said it had fewer than 700 outages reported Saturday.
The Associated Press, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel contributed to this report.
Beth Quimby can be reached at 791-6363 or at:
Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: