December 23, 2013

Icing after dark leads to spate of accidents

The freezing rain leaves thousands without power and turns roads treacherous.

By Dennis Hoey
Staff Writer

and Joe Lawlor
Staff Writer

A slow-moving ice storm caused numerous traffic accidents in southern Maine as temperatures dropped after sunset Sunday, and there could be more havoc Monday as freezing rain lingers over the state just two days before Christmas.

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Ice builds up from Sunday’s rain on Mark Storck’s car in his Bridgton driveway. More icing is expected Monday morning with freezing rain forecast to linger until the afternoon.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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Mark Storck scrapes ice from the windshield of his car in Bridgton on Sunday.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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The ice storm knocked out power to thousands of Mainers, and more than 10,000 were still without power late Sunday night, most of them along the upper midcoast and in Down East Maine.

The National Weather Service forecast more freezing rain for Monday morning but said that by Tuesday and Wednesday, most of Maine will be basking in bright sunshine.

“Today didn’t quite turn out the way we thought it would,” said Mike Kistner, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Gray. “These types of (weather) events are frustrating for us because they are very hard to forecast.”

Kistner was referring to predictions that Sunday morning would bring an ice storm to most of Maine. It did not immediately, especially in Portland and areas to the south, and many motorists took advantage of fairly good driving conditions during the relatively mild daylight hours to run errands or to finish their holiday shopping.

Everything changed rather suddenly after 4 p.m., when darkness fell and temperatures dropped well below freezing.

“It went from perfectly fine to very hectic in about 15 minutes,” said Andrew Flynn, a Scarborough police officer.

Flynn said his department was forced to shut down Running Hill Road – a major connecting artery to the Maine Mall in South Portland – for about an hour after icy conditions sent several cars spinning off the narrow two-lane road.

Icy roads caused the driver of a Poland Spring tractor-trailer water tanker to lose control on a curve on Route 113 in Baldwin. The vehicle traveled 360 feet into a ditch and rolled over. The accident was reported at 3:57 p.m. Sunday.

Capt. Donald Goulet of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said the driver, David Nelson, 46, had to be extricated from the wreckage and was transported to Maine Medical Center in Portland with non-life threatening injuries. Police shut down Route 113 for more than three hours.

The northbound lanes of the Maine Turnpike between Falmouth and Gray had to be closed for about 90 minutes Sunday night after the driver of a tractor-trailer truck skidded on “black ice” and jackknifed across both lanes around 4:20 p.m., said Fern Cloutier, a Maine State Police trooper. Cloutier said the driver, Porna Shai, 41, of Pennsylvania was not injured.

“There were accidents all over the turnpike,” said Cloutier, referring to the chaos that ensued after temperatures dipped and roads covered with moisture froze over.

Farther south in Kennebunk, northbound traffic on the turnpike came to a “standstill” after a three-car accident forced police to close one lane of traffic, said Dan Morin, a spokesman for the Maine Turnpike Authority. Morin noted that driving conditions were fine during the day, but he said that “once the temperatures dropped after sunset, it froze everything out there.”

Despite the dangerous driving conditions encountered by motorists Sunday night and power outages across the state, the weekend storm did not resemble the infamous “Great Ice Storm” of 1998.

While thin layers of ice could be found in many parts of Maine, Sunday’s weather event did not come close to the ice storm of Jan. 4, 1998, when 2 to 3 inches of ice froze over roads, weighed down trees and caused massive power outages for days and weeks.

“It’s not going to be anywhere on the scale of 1998 in terms of area impacted or amount of ice,” said Eric Schwibs, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Cherries are iced over on the campus of Bates College in Lewiston on Sunday. Central Maine saw more ice buildup than coastal areas did during the day on Sunday.

AP Photo/Amber Waterman, Sun Journal

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Ice encrusts a bush as a truck passes by on Saco Road in Standish on Sunday.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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Icicles drip from the edges of picnic tables at Quarry Road Recreational Area as the ice storm rolls through Waterville on Sunday.

The Associated Press

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A Waterville Public Works snowplow clears Mayflower Hill Drive on Sunday morning.

Photo by Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

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Ice builds up on the edge of the road as cars pass by on a treated, ice-free Saco Road in Standish on Sunday.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

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Antonio Sirabella holds on to a tow strap Sunday while attempting to walk through the parking lot of his Gardiner apartment building. More than a quarter-inch of ice coated tree branches and wires in the Augusta and Gardiner areas at noon.

Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

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