January 4

Storm departs, but big chill lingers in Maine

No major storms are on the horizon beyond some rain or freezing rain that could arrive Sunday and last into Monday.

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

This winter’s latest snowstorm ended Friday morning but the biting cold and stinging wind stayed behind, holding temperatures to the single digits around Portland with a wind chill that felt much colder.

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With the temperature at 3 degrees, Drue Ford shovels snow wearing a face mask to guard against frostbite Friday in Brunswick.

The Associated Press/Robert F. Bukaty

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Trailed by a cloud of snow, a snowplow clears part of the Maine Turnpike in Kennebunk on Friday morning.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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The wind died down by Friday evening, but the temperature in Portland was down to minus 4 by 10 p.m. – and projected to drop to 10 below zero overnight. Inland, temperatures were expected to approach 20 below zero, according to the National Weather Service.

Warmer and sunnier weather is on its way for Saturday. Some rain or freezing rain could arrive Sunday, with temperatures expected to rise into the 30s and perhaps even the 40s by Monday. Beyond that, Tuesday is expected to be sharply colder, with a high in the teens, but temperatures are expected to be more seasonable Wednesday and Thursday, with highs in the 20s, said Margaret Curtis, a meteorologist with the weather service.

Even better, Curtis said, no big storms are on the horizon beyond Monday’s rain.

The snowstorm that began Thursday dumped as much as 11 inches of light, fluffy snow on Portland and surrounding towns. Snowfall amounts were less farther up the coast and inland.

The storm didn’t reach blizzard conditions as predicted, but driving Friday was treacherous. Speed limits on the Maine Turnpike and Interstate 295 were reduced to 45 mph. Police in York and Cumberland counties reported a few minor accidents and cars sliding off roads, but no major crashes.

Speed limits were returned to normal by the afternoon.

While the Portland International Jetport terminal and its runways remained open, many airlines were reporting delays and cancellations because of the weather. Friday morning, eight of 29 arrivals were canceled and 16 of 35 departures were grounded.

Alisha Holbrook, 28, a substitute carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, wasn’t deterred by the harsh weather. She just made adjustments. On Friday, she opted to drive her own car, a 2000 Honda CRV, rather than her mail carrier truck. She said she felt more comfortable in her own vehicle.

Her job involves getting out of the vehicle often to deliver packages or get signatures. She was prepared for that, too, wearing a down jacket, a long-sleeved thermal shirt and fleece vest, jeans, waterproof Keen boots and her husband’s military-issue wool socks, and a wool hat with fleece lining.

Central Maine Power Co. officials said they braced for power outages caused by high winds, but only a few outages occurred, and they were restored by 3:30 p.m. Bangor Hydro Electic Co. had fewer than 200 outages at its peak Friday.

Both utilities are still assessing the damage from last week’s ice storm in much of coastal and central Maine that left more than 100,000 customers without power, some for several days.

CMP can request rate increases for extraordinary costs if certain criteria are met, according to the Public Utilities Commission.

First, the storm must be declared a significant weather event by the National Weather Service, which has already done so. At least 20 percent of the utility’s customers must be affected. At the height of the storm, just over 20 percent of CMP’s customers were without power.

And third, the cost of the damage must be at least $1.5 million, which is likely.

CMP spokesman John Carroll said the utility is still assessing the damage.

It will then prepare a filing for the PUC that explains all of its costs in detail.

Carroll said requests for rate adjustments associated with extreme weather events are common.

CMP already has a proposal before the PUC to raise rates beginning July 1. CMP officials said that request is not tied to a weather event but is needed to upgrade distribution and billing systems intended to improve reliability.

The request, submitted in May, would increase the average monthly bill by about $2.

Carroll said it’s likely that any request for recovery of costs associated with the ice storm would be rolled into that rate increase request, which the PUC will hear this spring.

Any time a storm causes extensive damage to power lines, CMP is flooded with calls to bury lines underground, Carroll said.

That is an option, but not a realistic one, he said.

The cost to bury one mile of power line is about $1 million. CMP has 23,000 miles of power lines.

Staff Writers Gillian Graham and North Cairn contributed to this report.


Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:


Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

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Additional Photos

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Eric Cloutier, an employee of the Kennebunk area water district, braves the waves splashing over the road as he heads for a water pipe break at one of the residences along the ocean. The road was closed to all but local traffic and workers.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer A motorist in a truck stops to help a driver who got stuck in a snowbank in the southbound lane of the Maine Turnpike in Arundel on Friday.

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Eric Gibson, an employee of Freeport Public Works, grinds through some pretty deep snow drifts Friday as he cleans the sidewalk in Freeport near Bath Savings Bank. Gordon Chibroski, Staff Photographer

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