Call it Fast and Furious: Maine Edition.

A string of back-to-back storms is keeping public works crews scrambling to clean up before the next round of snow hits. It’s also testing the stamina of crews trying to plow streets, clear sidewalks, remove tall snowbanks and get enough rest.

“They’re coming fast and furious,” said Chris Legro of the National Weather Service in Gray. “These storms are coming one after another with very little break in between.”

And the active weather system is not done with us yet.

A cold front is expected to move into the area late Wednesday and bring several more inches of snow. That will produce a new round of challenges as plow crews try to keep roads clear without adding to snowbanks that are reducing visibility at intersections and creating headaches for drivers and pedestrians alike.

“It seems like we’re getting a full winter’s worth of snow in two weeks,” said Doug Howard, director of South Portland Public Works. “One of our biggest challenges is keeping our sidewalks clear. There’s no room for the snow anywhere.”

In the past eight days, Portland has recorded 38.5 inches of snow. That’s more than half the total average for an entire winter – 61.9 inches.

And southern Maine has nothing on Washington County. Eastport, at the eastern tip of the state, has had 76 inches in the past week, Legro said.


The latest storm on Monday made for slippery conditions Tuesday in southern Maine, especially during the morning commute. Many roads were firmly packed with snow that had become icy in spots. At intersections across Portland, cars with spinning tires struggled to get up hills and through intersections.

Accidents – mostly slide-offs and minor crashes – caused delays in Portland, South Portland and Saco, but no major injuries were reported. Portland police responded to 52 accidents between noon Monday and noon Tuesday.

In Saco, officers responded to four accidents in 20 minutes Tuesday morning, mostly in the downtown area, said Cpl. Michael Maksut.

“People aren’t allowing enough time to stop given the slippery conditions,” he said.

The lack of time to clear away growing piles of snow in between storms also was affecting travel safety, police said.

“The high snowbanks are making visibility difficult,” said Sgt. Todd Barlow of the South Portland Police Department.


Although public works directors aren’t strangers to dealing with big winter snowfalls, they admitted that the frequency of storms this winter is creating headaches.

“We just barely get the streets cleared and we have another storm happening or on our doorstep,” said Guy Casavant, director of Biddeford Public Works. “Trying to keep sidewalks open has been a nightmare.”

Matt Hill, director of Sanford Public Works, said his town and many other Maine municipalities are in a similar position: The same trucks deployed to plow roads are used later to haul the snow away. But with back-to-back storms, workers don’t have time to switch over the equipment needed for the two different jobs.

In most Maine towns, public works departments have one shift of plow drivers, so “it’s all hands on deck” during a snow event, Hill said.

In South Portland, for example, plow drivers rest on cots during short breaks, but are often working long shifts for the duration of the storm, Howard said.

“It’s the same guys out there day and night,” he said. “The big challenge is getting enough rest.”


All of the hours clearing the roads means big overtime bills for towns, but officials say they have not yet tapped out their snow removal budgets.

Portland had used about 60 percent of its $1.1 million snow removal and plowing budget, officials said Monday.

Howard said South Portland is using a lot of overtime, and so far his budget is about where it should be for an average winter.

“If everything stopped now, we’d be looking pretty good,” he said. “But we have two more months of winter. It will strain our budget by the end of the year.”

Casavant, in Biddeford, isn’t concerned about his budget at the moment.

“I don’t worry about the budget in times like these,” he said. “We go out and do what we have to do.”


Sometimes, even that’s not enough.

“Fix It! Portland,” the city’s new digital tip line for problems and complaints, had received dozens of snow-related reports, including roads in need of snow plowing or sanding, and sidewalks that were buried under rising snowbanks. Although the city requires private property owners to clear sidewalks, eight reports posted Monday on the website talked about walks that had not been shoveled, forcing residents to walk in the street.

Other posted reports, including some that the city appears to have addressed, say growing snowbanks are blocking parking spaces or forcing motorists to park in travel lanes.

“We are in severe need of snow removal,” a Montreal Street resident reported Tuesday. “Truly this is a public safety hazard. The street in front of our house does not look like it’s been plowed at all since the storm.”

“Snow banks are too high on Tate Street,” another resident posted Tuesday. “Residents will be unable to clear driveways and walking paths during” the next storm.

“None of the sidewalk is clear on the length of New Street,” another post says.

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan on Tuesday praised the city crews and contractors who have been digging out the city, but also residents who have helped make it easier.

“I also want to thank all of the citizens, who are no doubt a little weary, for the time they’ve spent clearing driveways, walkways, sidewalks, fire hydrants and bus shelters so commerce can continue and public safety crews can have access. Many of you have gone above and beyond by helping out a neighbor or friend, and I thank you,” he said.