December 28, 2012

Rude awakening: Portland tows 72 after winter's 1st storm

Getting a release slip cost each owner $135 – a $70 tow fee, $35 impound fee and $30 parking ticket.

By Scott Dolan
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – As it does every year, Portland's first on-street parking ban of the winter caught many motorists by surprise.

click image to enlarge

Portland residents retrieve their cars from the city's impound lot after having them towed during the recent snowstorm. Jessica Frenette, who had her car towed from Cumberland Avenue, scrapes ice and snow from her car before leaving the lot on Friday afternoon, Dec. 28, 2012.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Portland residents retrieve their cars from the city's impound lot on Commercial Street on Friday, Dec. 28, 2012 after having them towed during the recent snowstorm.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

Related headlines

The city ordered 72 vehicles towed during the parking ban that ran from Thursday night into Friday, after the season's first serious storm socked Portland with about 10 inches of snow.

At the impound lot at the Ocean Gateway terminal on Friday morning, owners trickled in to reclaim their vehicles, arriving by taxi, on foot or with friends. It cost each owner $135 to get a release slip: a $70 tow fee, a $35 impound fee and a $30 parking ticket.

"I think for these 72 folks that had their cars towed, it's disappointing," said city spokeswoman Nicole Clegg, "but we've had storms with more than 100 towed."

Michael Birenbaum-Quintero, who just moved to a new place in the city's West End, said he didn't realize that on-street parking was banned. He said he moved his car off the street overnight Wednesday into Thursday, and figured he was safe Thursday night because the snow had stopped falling.

"It was two nights in a row, so last night I wasn't paying that much attention," he said.

Birenbaum-Quintero, who arrived at the impound lot around 8:30 a.m. Friday, said he learned a lesson and will watch for parking bans in the future.

"I'll sign up for every email list they have," he said.

Jessica Frenette, who moved to Portland recently from Berlin, N.H., thought she had signed up to get email and text message alerts for parking bans, so she was unpleasantly surprised when her car was towed from Cumberland Avenue.

"I never got a notification, so I just assumed maybe they'd just clean it during the day while people were at work," she said.

Frenette arrived at the impound lot by taxi, paid her release fees and rushed to get to work. She had called her workplace to say she would be late, she said, talking while walking across the lot to the farthest row.

"It's my first winter in Portland," Frenette said, "so I'm not very happy with this."

Clegg said people who sign up for email or text messages must read about the notification process carefully. Anyone who signs up must respond to a confirmation message to get on the notification list, she said.

In addition to email and text message alerts, the city uses its website, Facebook and Twitter, sends news releases to media outlets, maintains a hotline and displays the message from the top of the Time and Temperature Building downtown.

"We do the best we can to spread the word," Clegg said.

But no method of notification would have helped Chris Eaton, who had two cars towed because he was too sick to move them.

"I was just in bed with a fever and couldn't get out," Eaton said.

The snow accumulation was recorded at 10 inches at the Portland International Jetport, according to the National Weather Service office in Gray.

Elsewhere in Cumberland County, snow accumulation varied, with Scarborough receiving a foot of snow by 4 p.m. Thursday, Gorham receiving 10 inches by 3:30 p.m., Raymond receiving 9 inches by 5:30 p.m., Brunswick receiving 8.5 inches by 5:30 p.m. and Cape Elizabeth receiving 7 inches by 4 p.m.

The biggest snow accumulation in the state was recorded in Island Falls in Aroostook County, at 17 inches, said the National Weather Service.

Here are the snow totals from other counties:

• In Greene in Androscoggin County, 11 inches.

• In Farmington in Franklin County, 10.3 inches.

• In Manchester in Kennebec County, 10.5 inches.

• In Hope in Knox County, 7 inches.

• In Newcastle in Lincoln County, 8.7 inches.

• In Andover in Oxford County, 10 inches.

• In Richmond in Sagadahoc County, 8.5 inches.

• In Belmont in Waldo County, 9.4 inches.

• In Lebanon and Berwick in York County, 12 inches.

Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:


Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Portland residents retrieve their cars from the city's impound lot on Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, after having them towed during the recent snow storm. A Portland police officer releases a vehicle from the impound lot on Commercial Street.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer


Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)