Mike Dassatt of Belfast traveled almost the entire length of Interstate 95 south through the East Coast blizzard, barreling on despite heading through one of the worst winter storms in the mid-Atlantic in years.

He left Presque Isle at 1:30 p.m. Thursday with a load of 42,000 pounds of Maine potatoes, heading for St. Augustine, Florida. He spent Thursday night in New Jersey and encountered the storm as he headed south Friday.

“I got through by the skin of my teeth,” Dassatt said Saturday.

Passing dozens of vehicles that had slipped off the road, Dassatt drove about 140 miles in heavy snow through Virginia and another 90 miles through ice in North Carolina, where he stopped for the night. He woke up Saturday morning to a few snowflakes but his truck and the roads were covered in ice. He waited for the temperatures to climb before setting out again.

Speaking from Santee, South Carolina, on Saturday morning, Dassatt said the roads were clear, skies overcast and temperatures about 39 degrees.

His odyssey illustrates the reach of the blizzard. Even though Maine was expected to get little or no snow from the storm, its effects were still felt by Mainers.

Dozens of flights were cancelled at the Portland Internation Jetport on Saturday. Flights that were scheduled to arrive from Washington, Baltimore, Philadephia and New York were canceled because the storm was dumping heavy snow on those cities. Flights out were also canceled because the airlines were unable to get the planes to Portland.

Scott Ogden, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine, went home at noon Friday along with thousands of other federal workers in the District of Columbia. He said that the Office of Personnel Management, which handles closings, hasn’t yet announced if offices will be open Monday, but Mainers seeking help could stop by King’s offices in Maine.

King was in the state and has scheduled events in Kennebunk and Biddeford on Monday..

Another King aide, Marge Kilkelly, his senior policy adviser, spent at least part of the storm holed up in her basement efficiency apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland. With 16 inches of heavy wet snow outside her apartment Saturday morning, the storm would earn a “medium” rating by Maine standards, Kilkelly said.

She and her husband, Joe Murray, are used to spending storms in their Dresden home, equipped with a generator, landline phone, and gas and wood stoves, she said. As of Saturday morning, she hadn’t seen a plow go by the street where the apartment is located.

“At home this would be cause for the special town meeting,” Kilkelly said.

But Kilkelly said she recognized that for people not used to the snow in areas where everyone is dependent on the electric grid for power and heat, the storm must be stressful.

“On the scale of stress, I am at about zero because I don’t have to go anywhere,” Kilkelly said.

Dassatt has somewhere to go, but the truck driver said he has a strategy for keeping safe in a storm.

“I just take my time and try to keep a safe following distance. I try to find that happy place and stay there,” he said.

Dassatt will return north in a day or two, carrying a load of cauliflower, oranges and other produce to either Boston or Andover, Massachusetts.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy contributed to this report.

 

 


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