Much of southern Maine got more sleet than snow out of a messy winter storm Friday.

Most towns and cities along the coast got around 2 to 3 inches of sleet, said Andy Pohl, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray. Inland, it was a different story, with most of the precipitation falling as snow. By late afternoon, Augusta and Bethel each got about a foot of snow, Pohl said, and Harrison got 10 inches.

“It’s been a mess,” Pohl said, and he cautioned that full totals from the storm wouldn’t be available until Saturday.

Forecasters had posted a winter storm warning and expected that much of southern Maine would get mostly snow. The forecast for Portland called for 6 to 10 inches of snow, Pohl said, but the snow/sleet line set up further south than anticipated.

Southern New Hampshire got mostly freezing rain, he said.

Sleet is formed when snow falls through a layer of warm air and melts before hitting colder air near the surface and refreezing. Freezing rain occurs when rain or melted snow hits the surface and refreezes.


Regardless of the type of precipitation, officials said roads were treacherous in southern Maine and New Hampshire, and the Maine State Police reported more than 10 crashes on the Maine Turnpike during a three-hour span Friday morning.

“Troopers are responding to one crash after another on the turnpike. Troopers say people are driving too fast for road conditions. Fortunately, there have been no injuries,” Shannon Moss, spokesperson for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said on Friday morning.

In York, the driver of a tractor-trailer heading south on the turnpike lost control of the vehicle due to speed and road conditions, police said. The truck struck the center guardrail, causing the rear of the truck to swing and strike the shoulder guardrail. The truck came to rest in the center of the road, blocking all three lanes. The driver was not injured and was not cited, police said.


A plow truck clears snow from a southbound lane of the Maine Turnpike in Kennebunk on Friday morning. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

On the other hand, Augusta saw minimal accidents. Police Sgt. Eric Lloyd said that by late Friday morning there had been only two crashes and about a half-dozen vehicles were reported as disabled or off the road since 7 p.m. Thursday.

“Normally I’d expect to see a lot more than that,” he said. “If you were to tell me that we were looking at less than a handful of motor vehicle crashes, I would’ve said, ‘No way.’ ”


Lloyd said the decision late Thursday to shut down schools and state offices in Augusta may have contributed to the low number of crashes.

In Pittsfield, Police Officer Frank Pellerin said there were no crashes, but that roads in town were “pretty bad.”

“Town crews are doing a great job keeping roads clear the best they can,” Pellerin said.

The messy mix Friday will be followed by a cold weekend. Pohl said the low temperature Saturday night will bottom out around zero and high temperatures Saturday and Sunday will be in the low 20s. But there are no major storms on the horizon, he said – a storm headed up the coast on Tuesday is expected to stay offshore, and high temperatures are expected to warm to around 40 Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Longer term, forecasts call for most of February to be slightly warmer than normal, and precipitation is expected to be near normal, he said.

Weather service meteorologist Mike Ekster said the forecast for the weekend prompted his advice for people to tackle the task of clearing driveways and sidewalks Friday rather than waiting till the weekend.


The messy mix made snow removal a headache, but Ekster said waiting will make it worse.

“It will freeze solid like a rock tonight,” he said Friday.

Marc Cantara shovels a mixture of sleet and snow from the edge of his driveway on Graham Street Extension in Biddeford on Friday morning. Cantara, 77, said he would rather make multiple passes at clearing the wintry mix because it gets too heavy after it accumulates. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Commenters on social media took note of the difficulty of removing the frozen mixture of sleet and snow.

“I drove over the top of it with a snowblower for 45 minutes so that there’s tracks. Makes clear I tried, you know?” Gavin McCarthy tweeted.

Dozens of school districts in southern and central Maine announced traditional snow days or remote learning days Friday. Many child care centers, libraries and businesses also closed. In Portland, City Hall and other city buildings were closed to the public Friday because of the weather.

Speed limits on the Maine Turnpike and Interstate 295 were reduced because of slippery conditions, and most flights in and out of the Portland International Jetport Thursday night and Friday morning were canceled. As in the blizzard last weekend, conditions in the region were poor, said Zachary Sundquist, spokesman for the jetport.


“It’s not just Portland that’s being affected,” he said Thursday. “It’s happening up and down the East Coast.”

A tractor trailer crashed on the Maine Turnpike in York when the driver lost control because of speed and road conditions. Photo courtesy of Maine State Police

Nationally, more than 6,200 flights had been canceled and hundreds more were delayed on Thursday, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware. By Friday night, the jetport website showed that most flights into and out of Portland on Saturday were back on schedule.

High wind gusts, which can lead to power outages, were not be a problem on Friday, but Central Maine Power Co. said its crews were prepared. The company’s 200 line workers were assisted by 114 contractor crews from Maine and outside the state, along with 97 tree workers.

But there were only a handful of outages throughout the day for CMP. Versant Power, CMPs’ northern neighbor, topped out at roughly 5,000 outages, which were swiftly resolved.

Friday’s storm was the second to slam the state in less than a week. A nor’easter packing blizzard conditions dumped up to 20 inches of snow in some places, including Brunswick, last Saturday.

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Chris Bouchard contributed to this report.

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