A fast-moving nor’easter blew through Maine on Thursday, closing hundreds of schools, government offices and businesses, creating dangerous driving conditions and leaving some sections of Maine buried under more than a foot of snow.

The National Weather Service in Gray said snow fell at a rate of 2 to 4 inches an hour in some towns. Fortunately, cold temperatures produced snow that was fluffy and light, making it easier to clear ahead of the storms expected to hit Maine over the weekend.

“Right now we have a nice little (weather) setup for more storms,” weather service meteorologist James Brown said of the current pattern. “These storms are traveling up a trough on the East Coast,” steering snowstorms into the Northeast.

The weather service was being cautious in its predictions, he said. On Saturday, the Portland area could see 1-3 inches of snow, and the forecast for Sunday evening was still a bit sketchy.

“Snow is likely,” Brown said of Sunday night, declining to predict how much snow the state might see.

Some forecasts were calling for a foot of snow or more Sunday night into Monday.

Thursday’s storm, which broke out midmorning and tapered off around 9 p.m., brought the highest snowfall amounts for a single storm this winter season, the weather service said.

Brown said York County got slammed, with Berwick reporting accumulations of 16.8 inches. Kennebunk got 13 inches and Saco 11 inches. Lesser amounts were reported in Cumberland County, where 7.5 inches of snow fell at the Portland International Jetport, 8 inches in Westbrook, 8 inches in Yarmouth and 6 inches in Freeport.

Further inland, the totals were higher. Sebago and New Gloucester each reported getting 10.5 inches of snow. Lewiston reported 11.5 inches.


Thursday’s nor’easter was part of a massive winter weather system that slammed the East Coast and affected more than 50 million people. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency reported that 60,000 customers lost power Thursday evening as Boston and other areas dealt with what the weather service described as blizzard conditions. Boston got 10.5 inches of snow, the weather service said.

Portland jetport Director Paul Bradbury said 70 percent of flights Thursday were canceled, in large part because of delays and cancellations at larger airports in Washington, D.C., and New York City, which in turn have affected travel throughout the country. Only a handful of flights arrived on time at the jetport Thursday, he said.

Nationwide, more than 3,000 flights were canceled and more than 3,500 were delayed, according to FlightAware.com.

Airlines began notifying passengers of flight cancellations Wednesday in an attempt to give passengers enough notice to plan around the travel interruptions, Bradbury said.

Some planes that took off Thursday from Portland were routed around the storm, including some flights bound for Detroit. Other destinations far enough south of the storm were able to be routed above the weather, avoiding New York City connections entirely.

Bradbury said he expects a regular schedule of arrivals and departures on Friday morning.

“The problem is rescheduling the people who were canceled,” Bradbury said. “Certainly all the airlines have given out travel waivers for all the travelers to rebook at later dates.”

Thursday’s storm also led to widespread school cancellations, and courts were closed in York, Cumberland, Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln and Oxford counties.

Thursday’s legislative session at the State House was canceled. Gov. Paul LePage announced that state offices would close at noon and urged drivers to travel safely.


Driving conditions were dangerous Thursday. Officials warned drivers to stay off the roads because blowing snow reduced visibility to a quarter-mile or less.

An SUV went off a bridge and landed in an ice-covered pond in Biddeford late Thursday morning, but the man and woman inside were rescued by firefighters and did not suffer any serious injuries. Authorities said slippery roads probably caused the crash.

The Standish Fire-EMS Department took to Facebook to remind residents that Town Hall was closed because of the storm and to warn people about bad road conditions.

“Visibility is terrible out there. Please stay home if you can,” the post said.

The speed limit was reduced to 45 mph on the Maine Turnpike from Kittery to Augusta. Turnpike officials warned drivers to travel with caution, especially around crashes, because of low visibility. Crashes were reported on the turnpike in Auburn and West Gardiner.

Ted Talbot, spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation, urged drivers to stay off the roads and offered advice for those who had to venture out.

“If you have to go out today, certainly go very slowly, leave a lot of extra time and leave extra space between you and the car in front of you,” he said. “Drivers should also allow the plows a lot of room. The road behind the plow is always better than the road in front of the plow.”

Drivers in central Maine reported whiteout conditions and vehicles off the road. At 3 p.m., an accident involving two tractor-trailers and a car at mile 108 of Interstate 95, near the Western Avenue exit in Augusta, reduced northbound traffic to one lane, said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Patrick Moody of AAA Northern New England said the company’s call center hadn’t been too busy by midday Thursday because many people stayed off the roads, since most schools were closed and many businesses closed early.


In Greater Portland, METRO buses ran as scheduled throughout the day.

Portland announced a citywide parking ban beginning at 10 p.m. and continuing through 6 a.m. Friday. Brunswick also announced a parking ban from 9 p.m. Thursday through 7 a.m. Friday. A parking ban in Westbrook will run from 9 p.m. Thursday to 7 a.m. Friday.

Portland City Hall closed at noon and public meetings scheduled for Thursday were canceled, city officials said.

Although many businesses closed early, Maine Hardware in Portland remained open into the afternoon.

Tim Currier, the store’s general manager, said business was brisk in the morning, with shovels, snowblowers and ice-melt flying out the door.

But business dropped off around 1:30 p.m., he said, and the flow of customers became barely a trickle, while other shops and stores in the plaza on St. John’s Street began to close.

“We’re trying to tough it out, and see if we can help anybody out in the community,” Currier said.

Staff Writer Matt Byrne and Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Betty Adams contributed to this report.

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

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