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February 28, 2013

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

Andrew Scotton of Gorham takes a break from work to take a walk in the sleet on the Western Promenade in Portland on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.

Wintry mix won't surrender anytime soon

By Dennis Hoey
dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A slow-moving winter storm that pelted southern Maine Wednesday with a sloppy mix of snow, rain and sleet was expected to continue until Friday.

And even after the precipitation stops, forecasters say, it could be several more days before the first rays of sunshine break through the clouds.

Inland and mountain regions of Maine could get 6 to 15 inches of snow, with less – about 3 inches – forecast for Portland and other coastal areas.

When asked if we will ever see the sun again, Steve Capriola, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said, "Geez, I don't know. June maybe."

Capriola said the cloudy weather will continue through the weekend, with the first breaks of sunshine coming on Monday or Tuesday.

The snowfall began in Portland early Wednesday afternoon, and began mixing with rain and sleet by late afternoon, turning roads throughout southern Maine into a sloppy mess.

Police across the region reported numerous slide-offs but no serious injuries.

Late Wednesday night, state police were investigating a crash in the northbound lanes of the Maine Turnpike in Falmouth involving a sedan and a tractor-trailer carrying diesel fuel.

No injuries were reported, but truck's 70-gallon saddle tank was ruptured in the collision and was leaking fuel onto the road. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection was called.

Standish Fire Chief Brent Libby said slippery roads delayed his department's response to a house fire on Watchic Lake late Wednesday afternoon.

The home, which once was a camp, is 500 feet from the nearest driveway. Water had to be trucked in, further delaying firefighting efforts, Libby said.

No one was injured, but the home was a total loss.

Several accidents occurred on the turnpike during Wednesday night's rush hour.

Those crashes caused traffic delays and, in one instance, forced the closure of two southbound lanes near the Maine Mall in South Portland. No serious injuries were reported.

Dan Morin, a spokesman for the Maine Turnpike Authority, said the speed limit along the entire highway was reduced to 45 mph Wednesday afternoon, and that limit is likely to remain in effect through Thursday morning's commute.

"We've had multiple slide-offs, mostly due to people going too fast," Morin said.

While February has been Portland's ninth-snowiest month since the National Weather Service starting keeping records in the late 1800s, it appears unlikely that the record for the most snow in a season – 141.5 inches, set in 1970-71 – will be broken.

As of Wednesday night, Portland had received 82.9 inches of snow, Capriola said.

Last year, Portland got just 43.9 inches.

Wednesday's storm had dropped 1.3 inches of snow on the Portland International Jetport by 7 p.m., with another 2 inches expected by Thursday morning.

Snowfall amounts were expected to vary widely, with Kennebunk getting 1 inch and Gray 3.8 inches as of Wednesday night.

Central Maine Power Co. was reporting a minimal number of power outages Wednesday night – fewer than 400, most of them in Knox County.

Capriola said shifting temperatures were producing a wide variety of precipitation.

"It was a tough storm to call," he said. "It wasn't easy, like a nor'easter would have been."

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com





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