February 9, 2013

Historic blizzard batters Maine

From staff reports

What was shaping up as a historic two-day winter storm hit southern Maine a little earlier and more intensely than expected Friday, forcing schools and businesses to close and prompting Gov. Paul LePage to declare a limited state of emergency.

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A pedestrian crosses Fore Street, Friday night, Feb. 8, 2013, as the snow continues to fall in Portland.

Derek Davis / Staff Photographer

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Roger Olson holds out a hand to his daughter Gianna while the two explore the snow-covered rocks at Mother's Beach in Kennebunk on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

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RIDING THE STORM OUT? SOME TIPS

• Central Maine Power Co. urges homeowners not to try to clear any downed trees or limbs near power lines. CMP will have crews out all weekend to deal with outages.

• Many communities have banned on-street parking for Saturday.

• Portland residents are allowed to fill two 5-gallon buckets of sand and salt, which is stored at the Deering Oaks parking lot along State Street, behind the Castle in the Park.

• Residents are encouraged to keep fire hydrants in their neighborhoods clear of snow and ice and clear off drain covers, if possible, to help prevent flooding.

• Homeowners who have boilers or furnaces with side vents should make sure they stay clear of snow. Those who use wood-burning stoves should make sure the flue is open to allow potentially harmful fumes to escape.

• Never operate a generator indoors, because of potentially fatal carbon monoxide emissions.

• In areas of a home where pipes are prone to freezing, turn faucets on slightly. If pipes do freeze, remove any insulation and wrap towels around them to absorb moisture. Never use a blowtorch to thaw frozen pipes.

• All flight cancellations and postponements at the Portland International Jetport will be posted on its website, www.portlandjetport.org. The Amtrak Downeaster will post updates about Saturday runs on its website, www.amtrakdowneaster.com/alerts.

-- From staff reports

Steady snowfall snarled Friday morning's commute, especially on Interstate 295 southbound, where a 19-car pileup occurred about 7:30 a.m. near Exit 11 in Falmouth.

Only minor injuries were reported, but traffic was at a near standstill for more than an hour, said emergency officials. Maine Turnpike officials cautioned drivers to avoid any unnecessary travel.

The storm dumped 12.3 inches of snow in Portland by 12:20 a.m., and forecasters expected the heaviest snowfall overnight and early Saturday morning.

Temperatures never rose above the teens Friday, and weren't expected to rise above the low 20s Saturday, with snow continuing for most of the day.

"We're still going to be measuring this in feet, not inches, by the time it's over," said Mike Cempa with the National Weather Service in Gray.

The weather service said it expected the storm to bring the biggest snowfall to Maine since 1979. The forecast called for about 28 inches in Portland -- the total from the 1979 storm was 27.9 inches -- by the time the storm winds down late Saturday.

Overnight winds were expected to gust to 50 to 60 mph, so significant drifts were expected to form.

With that forecast, the U.S. Postal Service took the rare step – possibly unprecedented – of announcing that post offices in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont will be closed Saturday and no mail will be delivered.

"This weather event is an extreme circumstance and it has the potential to be unprecedented," said Tom Rizzo, a spokesman for the Postal Service in Maine.

He said the Postal Service has, in a few cases, allowed offices to close early or pulled in carriers early, but in 20 years in Maine he can't remember officials deciding a day in advance not to deliver mail or open post offices.

Cempa said the snowfall was heavier than expected Friday, especially in coastal areas, because of cold air over warm water. Early forecasts called for 1 to 2 inches of snow to fall early Friday, with the storm gathering intensity Friday afternoon.

Cempa said the snow was expected to be relatively light and fluffy, reducing the possibility of widespread power outages.

"We'll have high winds, which can be a problem, but it won't be complicated by heavy, wet snow weighing down trees and power lines," he said.

The governor's office said it was in contact with Central Maine Power Co. and Bangor Hydro Electric officials, who had utility trucks ready to provide storm response.

Both utilities have coordinated storm preparation efforts, lining up contract crews to assist local crews if the storm causes widespread damage.

By midnight, CMP was reporting 775 customers without power, all in Saco, but the number was expected to grow as the winds increased overnight.

LePage's emergency declaration, issued around 3 p.m. Friday, allows extended hours for utility workers and allows crews from Canada to assist with any needed repairs.

"The ability to have electrical service repaired quickly is critical to protect public health and safety of Mainers," LePage said. "It takes a tremendous amount of effort to prepare for and clean up these winter storms, but we are well-equipped."

Flooding remained a concern for coastal areas, with high tide around 9 a.m. Saturday expected to be exceptionally high.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Megu Hirayama and Toji Perlman of Portland ski through a park along North Street, Friday, Feb. 8,2013, as the snow continues to fall.

Derek Davis / Staff Photographer

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Ginny plays in the back yard of a house off Washington Ave in Portland Friday, February 8, 2013.

Photo by Caitlin Malloy

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Southbound I-295 between Yarmouth and Falmouth slowed to a crawl Friday morning after a 19-vehicle accident that sent some vehicles off the road and into a deep gully. Several people were sent to the hospital with minor injuries.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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Icefisherman Ken Booth of Hollis is walking to his truck in near white-out conditions, but will return to his shack on Sebago Lake for an all-night fishing expedition during a massive blizzard on Friday, Feb.8, 2013.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

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A man battles fierce winds as he climbs a hill after leaving his car in a parking lot to avoid being towed during a parking ban, Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, in Portland, Maine. The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for Maine's southern coast. The forecast calls for up to 2 feet of snow and winds gusting to 50 mph. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

 


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