February 11, 2013

Digging deep: Snow removal could take weeks

Tall snowbanks line Portland streets, but clearing is under way and schools are open.

By Matt Byrne mbyrne@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Most downtown streets and sidewalks should be cleared enough to navigate amid the snowbanks when thousands of workers return to their jobs Monday morning, just two days after a record-setting blizzard buried the city under nearly 32 inches of snow.

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Federal Spice owner and cook Eric Martin does his part by helping the Fire Department clear the hydrant in front of his Federal Street eatery on Monday.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

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John Patriquin/Staff Photographer: Large snowflakes fell before a freezing rain as Portlanders make their way around the messy streets and sidewalks of intown Portland Monday Feb.11,2013 after a blizzard hit Maine this past weekend. This scene is in Monument Square toward Free st.

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City crews were expected to work well into Monday morning to make sure pathways were passable for drivers and pedestrians.

“We will do everything we possibly can to clear as much snow as we can by Monday morning,” city spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said Sunday.

Portland public schools were confident that city crews would get the job done. After discussing a possible closure of all schools, officials decided late Sunday to hold classes Monday.

About two-thirds of the city’s roughly 7,000 students walk or are driven to school each day, placing an onus on district administrators to ensure that arterial sidewalks and roads are safe.

“Many sidewalks and major arterials have been cleared. We are still asking students to take extra care and spend as much time as they need to get to classes safely,” said Peter Eglington, the school district’s chief operating officer.

Westbrook schools also will be open Monday. In South Portland, Superintendent Suzanne Godin said she would decide by about 5 a.m. whether to cancel classes.

“Because all our schools are in neighborhoods, we have some problem spots” where snow hasn’t been cleared, Godin said.

The U.S. Postal Service said mail delivery, which had been suspended in New England over the weekend, will resume Monday wherever it’s safe to do so. Some roads, especially in rural areas, may not be passable. Officials asked customers to clear their mailboxes and walkways of snow and ice.

Things had not looked all that promising Sunday afternoon in Portland, where city police closed Franklin Street’s inbound lane to traffic – between Somerset Street and Cumberland Avenue – to allow dump trucks the space they needed to unload snow into the median strip.

Clegg said it was the first time in recent memory that the city dumped snow there. “We had so much snow we had to get creative,” she said.

Portland public works crews estimate it could take three weeks to fully clear the city’s 100 miles of sidewalks.

Snowbanks several feet high lined much of Congress Street late Sunday afternoon. The streets bustled with city workers bearing shovels and driving front-end loaders, skid-steer tractors and dump trucks to haul away immeasurable tons of the fresh powder. At its peak, the storm drew 110 city workers and a fleet of 44 plow trucks.

A team of a dozen sidewalk tractors, three massive snow-blowing front-end loaders and 27 dump trucks worked to clear the steep embankments on nearly every downtown street corner.

On Commercial Street, where plows pushed mounds of snow into the center of the road, a caravan of dump trucks lined the street, waiting to take the snow away.

Downtown, a lot at Preble and Kennebec streets was set to receive mountains of snow. A location near the Portland International Jetport will receive truckloads hauled from mainland neighborhoods.

The city banned street parking overnight on Friday and Saturday. It towed 47 vehicles Friday but only 25 on Saturday, a record low for a citywide ban, Clegg said.

Sunday night, a limited parking ban was in place, barring residents from parking in the downtown area bordered by Commercial Street, State Street, Cumberland Avenue and Franklin Street.

The snowstorm, which started Friday morning and ended Saturday afternoon, brought heavy snow whipped by gusting winds – a dangerous mix that created blizzard conditions.

Between 2 and 3 feet of snow fell in the region. The biggest total, in Gorham, was 35.5 inches.

(Continued on page 2)

Staff writer Bob Keyes contributed to this report.

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Additional Photos

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A section of Franklin Street in Portland is closed off Sunday as trucks bring in snow from around the city to be deposited in the median after a weekend storm brought 31.9 inches of snow to the city.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

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Portland firefighter Eric Weeks shovels out a fire hydrant on West Commercial Street in Portland on Sunday.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Mike Carey blows the snow off his driveway on Oakdale Street in Portland during the cleanup from a blizzard on Sunday.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

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A large snowdrift rests on the top of the car of Joshua Hamel as he cleans off his car in Portland on Sunday, the day after Blizzard Nemo.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

Bert Johnson
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Bert Johnson takes a break while clearing snow from a bus-stop bench outside the apartment complex where he lives.

The Associated Press

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A truck dumps a load of snow in a lot at Preble and Kennebec streets in Portland on Sunday during the cleanup in the aftermath of the weekend blizzard that set a record of 31.9 inches of snowfall in the city.

Tim GreenwayStaff Photographer

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Pat Dunn of Pine Point shovels out mailboxes at the end of Pine Street in Pine Point on Sunday.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Brock Hieger of Saco sinks up to his waist in snow as he walks up a sliding hill at Saco Middle School on Sunday. Heiger was helping his 2-year-old son Gavin, right, when Gavin decided to walk on his own.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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John Morrill Read of Saco shovels his way through the deep snow in an effort to get his vehicle out of his garage on School Street in Saco on Sunday.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Chris Dyer, left, and Michael Demers of Saco make their way down School Street with shovels in hand as they look for driveways to shovel Sunday.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Kevin McPherson of Pleasant View Drive in Saco shovels off his roof on Sunday.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Liam Bridgham of Scarborough skis with his mother, Kim, Sunday at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

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Jerry Hunter shovels his walkway in Portland on Sunday after a weekend storm brought 31.9 inches of snow to the city.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

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Charlie Creswell, 4, sleds down a hill created by the snowplows on Fessenden Street in Portland on Sunday.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

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Chris and Kim Nichols of Scarborough cross-country ski along the Eastern Trail in Scarborough on Sunday. Chris is pulling his 9-month-old daughter, Lily, in a tow on skis.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Chris Massey of Cornish operates a loader on Sunday at a shopping plaza in Falmouth, while removing snow for Shaw Brothers Construction.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

  


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