February 13

Maine warms up plows, announces cancellations ahead of storm

The latest winter storm is expected to dump up to a foot of snow in the southern part of the state before wrapping up Friday morning.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Dozens of flights have already been canceled at the Portland International Jetport, schools have made plans to close early and public works crews are strategizing where to put all the new snow, even before the latest snowstorm hits New England.

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A nor’easter expected to arrive Thursday will add to this mound of snow removed earlier this winter from city streets and piled on Somerset Street in Portland.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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The storm forecast for Thursday is threatening to dump up to a foot of snow on Maine, possibly mixed with sleet and freezing rain at the coast. The same storm has already hammered the Eastern Seaboard, paralyzing Southern states including Georgia and the Carolinas.

Tom Hawley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said the snow will make its presence known quickly.

“By early afternoon, 1  or 2 (p.m.) or so, it should be snowing pretty hard,” Hawley said, and that will continue until early evening. He said some sleet and possibly rain will mix with the snow along the coast by about 8 p.m., and it could even switch over to all sleet or rain for several hours. He said the Maine Turnpike will be a rough snow/rain dividing line, although parts of the state as far inland as Lewiston and Sebago Lake could see some mixed precipitation.

Hawley said it should change back to all snow before sunrise Friday and that will add another two or three inches before 10 a.m.

All told, Hawley said, he expects about 7 to 9 inches of fresh snow on the ground by late Friday morning, although totals are hard to forecast because it’s difficult to say how much mixing will take place.

Inland, where the precipitation remains all snow,  about 10 to 14 inches is forecast, with totals tapering off slightly in far northern Maine to about 8 to 10 inches.

And, he said, more snow is on its way Saturday, although only about an inch is expected.

Hawley said another storm on Tuesday could bring a mix of snow and rain. Temperatures are expected to moderate for the end of next week, with highs of above freezing.

Road crews in Maine started preparing Wednesday for the latest storm in a season that has already brought 18.7 inches above normal snowfall.

“We’re lining up equipment right now,” said Mike Bobinsky, director of public services for Portland. “We likely will be using outside resources to assist our crews.”

“We’re making sure our salt and storage locations are ready to go, doing repairs on equipment, getting personnel lined up to supplement existing shifts,” Bobinsky said. The city anticipated bringing in additional people to supplement the morning crews working to clear the main arterials, not just plowing but loading snow into trucks and hauling it out of the downtown area.

The city is also keeping an eye on the height of its ever-mounting snow pile near the jetport, where it stores the bulk of the snow hauled from downtown.

The huge mound is located on outer Congress Street near the Maine Turnpike Authority offices. It is also in the glide path of approaching aircraft.

“There are restrictions on how high I can go,” Bobinsky said. “We’ve not really ever pushed the envelope.”

The maximum height for the snow pile is 30 feet.

The round trip to unload trucks at the snow dump takes about 40 minutes, so crews will also use areas like the snow dump on Somerset Street and possibly areas off Cleaves Street and Franklin Arterial, he said. Bobinsky said that during breaks between storms, the city will sometimes haul snow from Somerset Street to the pile near the jetport to make room at the in-town location.

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