The service desk phone was ringing, customers were lined up waiting to be served, and Ricky Chambers was doing all he could to remain calm.

Chambers is the assistant manager of the Sullivan Tire garage at 333 St. John Street in Portland, and Monday’s storm, even though the snow was light and fluffy, was driving business through the roof. Even at 5 p.m., an hour before Sullivan Tire was scheduled to close, the pace of repairs remained hectic and the customer waiting room was nearly full.

“Right now, everyone is panicking because they need to get their snow tires installed,” Chambers said. “It has been crazy busy and we are still trying to get cars done. The phone has not stopped ringing. We’ve put snow tires on 40 vehicles and still counting.”

The National Weather Service in Gray said the storm dropped a fair amount of snow Monday across York and Cumberland counties before it ended around 6:30 p.m. Accumulations varied widely, the weather service said.

As of 5 p.m., Standish was reporting 3.8 inches of snow, Cornish 3.4 inches, Saco 2 inches, Windham 3 inches, Westbrook 2.9 inches, Freeport 2 inches and Gray 1.8 inches. Just over an inch had fallen at the Portland International Jetport. Phippsburg in Sagadahoc County got 2.5 inches, and Otisfield in Oxford County received 3 inches.

“This was the first significant snowfall that we’ve seen this year,” said Stacie Hanes, a weather service meteorologist. Winter officially starts Dec. 21.

Hanes said more snow could fall Wednesday, although she expects that storm will bring only another inch or two to southern Maine.

Were Mainers caught off-guard by the season’s first snowstorm?

Bill Chandler and his wife, Holly, own Coastal Ace Hardware on Route 1 in Yarmouth. Business was brisk Monday, with customers scooping up large quantities of sand and ice melt.

“It was very busy, quite a bit of weather-related business, but today it has been more sand and ice that I’ve sold than anything else,” Bill Chandler said. “I’m not sure this snow is going to stay, but my customers knew it was going to be slippery.”

Chandler said customers started buying snowblowers and shovels about three weeks ago. Snow scoops, which are pushed by hand, also have been a popular item. In the past month, Chandler said he sold about 15 scoops, which retail for $49 each.

“People are not waiting for winter,” he said.

Monday’s storm made roads slick, causing a lot of slide-offs and minor crashes on the Maine Turnpike. Fifteen crashes were reported during the day, said Maine Turnpike Authority spokeswoman Erin Courtney. The speed limit was lowered to 45 mph along most of the highway during the day, before it was raised back to normal limits at 6:45 p.m.

One of the crashes, involving a tractor-trailer and car in Biddeford, forced police to shut down two southbound lanes of the turnpike around 1:30 p.m. Another crash, at about 11 a.m. between Exit 63 in Gray and Exit 53 in Falmouth, left one southbound lane closed near Mile 62 on the turnpike.

Courtney said drivers, based on her observations, did not seem to slow down despite slippery travel conditions.

“It seems a lot of people still aren’t ready for winter,” she said.

Marcus Payne of Portland welcomed winter by performing in an unusual, but highly visible, place. Payne held a sign and danced – at one point balancing on one foot – on top of a snow-covered granite pillar at the intersection of Congress and Preble streets near Monument Square.

Payne, who was dressed in a Santa Claus outfit, said he was not only embracing the snow, but also trying to bring attention to a good cause – a fundraiser to benefit the Center for Grieving Children in Portland. The “Markathon” is being sponsored by WCYY, a Portland radio station.

Disc jockey Mark Curdo will be on the air live for 102 hours starting Monday until this Friday. Curdo also will conduct an online auction to benefit the grieving children’s center.

“I was shocked to see the snow, but I am probably one of the few people you will meet who actually likes a good snowstorm,” Payne said as he stood atop the pillar Monday evening and shouted at passing motorists.

Monday’s snow began falling during the morning commute in southern New Hampshire and York County. By 9:30 a.m. it had reached Portland, where it continued to fall into the early evening. The weather service said visibility dropped to around a half-mile at times.

In York County, drivers were still grappling with slick roads into the early afternoon, with emergency dispatchers fielding calls about cars sliding off the roads.


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