February 13, 2013

Our View: Record snowfall did not shut down Portland

Planning, execution and neighbors helping each other make the storm memorable.

Nobody plans for the worst storm ever, but you can be prepared.

click image to enlarge

Rick Urban clears a neighbor's driveway along Capisic Street in Portland on Friday, as a massive snowstorm hit southern Maine. Residents helped each other through the blizzard, and public employees' planning and hard work eased the storm's impact.

2013 File Photo/John Patriquin

As southern Maine digs out from the deepest snowfall since Jimmy Carter was in the White House, residents can be relieved to know that the preparation worked when the big one hit.

This was especially evident in Portland, where its dense development and narrow streets make clearing snow a special challenge.

When the storm hit, the city was ready. Public works and emergency services worked around the clock keeping roads clear and responding to people who needed help.

Sometimes lives were at stake. Other times it was just property. Either way, the public employees took their jobs seriously.

"When I got there, (firefighters) had already broken in a side door," said Chris Bowe co-owner of Longfellow Books, which was flooded when a frozen pipe set off the sprinkler system.

"There were maybe 20 of them, and they were amazing," Bowe said. "Instead of standing around and letting the water fall, they were carrying books to safety . . . I couldn't believe how fast they worked to save the books. They saved an enormous amount of stock."

Longfellow Books, a downtown institution, will be the beneficiary of a community fundraiser Thursday night, and it will take the help of its loyal customers, including the local authors who rely on the independent bookseller as a launching point for their work, to get back on its feet.

Which is very much the way that Portland got through the last few days. It started with the emergency management planning that took place long before the first flakes hit, and continued with the hard work over long hours by city employees.

In the end, it was people in the neighborhoods who did what was needed to dig out and help each other get back to normal.

Peter Donatelli, who manages his family business, Liliana's Laundromat, on Congress Street on Munjoy Hill said he drove Saturday from his home on Allen Avenue to St. Peter's Parish on Federal Street, where he played the organ for the 5:15 p.m. Mass. He drove past several businesses and restaurants that were open.

"Clearly, Portland did not shut down. As soon as the last flake hit the ground, everything seemed to be open," he said. "Even though 32 inches is a record, it doesn't faze the people of Maine."

 

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