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

(Continued from page 1)

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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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Regional Snowfall
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Portland received 31.9 inches, measured at the Portland jetport. That was the highest amount of snow to fall in Portland over a two-day period since 1979, according to the National Weather Service in Gray.

Gusting winds reached 77 mph at 2 a.m. in Matinicus. In Portland, gusts surpassed 50 mph.

The storm proved both deadly and challenging for emergency responders.

The Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office said Gerald Crommett, 75, of Passadumkeag died after he became disoriented Saturday morning during the storm and drove his truck into the Penobscot River.

Police located his truck and recovered Crommett’s body from the river Sunday morning.

“It was very much a storm-related death,” said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine State Police, one of several agencies that searched for Crommett after a silver alert was issued Saturday.

Windham firefighters faced a different challenge early Saturday as blizzard conditions hampered their efforts to fight a garage fire at 81 Swett Road. Fire Chief Charlie Hammond said the fire was likely caused by a faulty generator being used to heat the home of David Clark after he lost power.

“When we arrived, the winds were blowing against us. My men were spraying water at the fire and it was coming back into their face,” Hammond said.

Clark’s home was declared a total loss after the fire flared up Saturday night and again Sunday morning. Those flareups destroyed the home’s roof and walls, which were attached to the garage.

In Portland on Sunday morning, the operator of a tractor-trailer truck backed into what he thought was a snowbank, but which turned out to be a guardrail. The impact ruptured the truck’s fuel tank, spilling about 250 gallons of diesel fuel onto the parking lot outside a Barber Foods warehouse off Milliken Road.

“We were able to contain most of the spill,” said Deputy Fire Chief Bill Flynn.

Meanwhile, firefighters had to take a few minutes to shovel out a hydrant that was buried in snow while fighting a fire Sunday morning on Burnside Avenue. That fire left one woman seriously injured.

Flynn said there was plenty of water in the fire trucks when they arrived, but the incident underscored how snowstorms of this magnitude can stress a fire department’s resources. He said the fire department is responsible for making sure it has access to more than 1,200 fire hydrants citywide.

Cloudless skies and sunshine drew many people out of homes Sunday to assess the damage, dig out and roam the streets that, in 36 blustery hours, were transformed into a labyrinth of narrow walkways and slush-covered asphalt.

One of Portland’s three front-end loaders – with a churning diesel snowblower large enough to devour a small Volkswagen – gnawed easily at a snowdrift Sunday afternoon. From the stoop of his gift shop, Brewster Harding watched the noisy machinery with fascination.

“That thing chews through that (snow) like butter,” said Harding, 70, who owns Shipwreck and Cargo on Commercial Street. Several years ago, plows used to push snow to the curb, blocking the handful of coveted parking spots in front of his store, Harding said.

“It’s key for potential customers to feel that parking is cleaned up and easy to find,” he said.

Rick Hinkle of ELC Managment Inc., which maintains eight large commercial properties downtown, said he and his crew gave up on shoveling Saturday when the snow was coming in sideways, accumulating too quickly to combat.

“We like to work smarter, not harder,” said Hinkle, 52, who remembers the Northeast blizzard of 1978, when snowbanks were more than 12 feet high. “This is mild compared to that one.”

(Continued on page 3)

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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