A brief, blustery outburst of snow caused numerous accidents and tied up traffic across southern Maine on Monday.
Approximately 2 inches of snow fell in Lewiston-Auburn, beginning around 4 p.m. The light, fluffy flakes had ceased falling by about 5:30 p.m., but the Twin Cities' quickly covered roads became dangerous during the first real snowstorm of the season.
The Auburn Fire Department responded to six different snow-related accident scenes, Capt. David Richards of the Auburn Fire Department said. Many involved multiple cars.
At least a half-dozen cars were involved in accidents on Goff Hill in Auburn within minutes of each other around 4:45 p.m., and Richards said that between 10 and 15 accidents were reported on Court Street alone. Goff Hill was closed to traffic for several hours as the Fire Department and towing crews cleared cars from the road and waited for Public Works vehicles to sand and plow the hill.
A vehicle driven by Kusima Polavaran of Auburn ran off Court Street at the corner of Highland Avenue, knocking out a metal guardrail and diving nose-first down a 4-foot-tall retaining wall before slamming into a tree. The car came to a rest wedged at a 45-degree angle, its front end crumpled against the tree trunk, the back end atop the wall.
No one, including Polavaran and her son, Trilok, also in the car, was injured during the evening's accidents in Auburn, Richards said.
One driver lost control after he was warned not to continue down Goff Hill, said Jason Spencer, who walked to Court Street from his Highland Avenue home to watch the clean-up effort. He said the white van tried to brake halfway down the hill but was unable to stop. It spun four times before causing a domino-effect wreck, colliding with one previously undamaged car, which was then sent into another truck stuck on the hill, Stacy Coombes, Spencer's wife, said.
"This is the worst we've seen so far," Keegan Moon, owner of Moon Recovering, a towing company called to clear Court Street, said. "The ground was cold. We haven't had any snow, and it iced up right away."
Moon continued to answer calls on his cell phone as he planned how to extract Polavaran's car, telling each caller that he expected it would take two to three hours before he could get to them, given the number of accidents he and his company's four trucks needed to respond to.
Road closures and accident scenes forced drivers to find alternate routes and tied up traffic throughout downtown Auburn just as day-shift workers were heading home.
"Congested traffic made it difficult for us to get to where we needed to go," Richards said.
In Lewiston, the scene was much the same with accidents and roads closed across the city, Sgt. Randy St. Laurent of the Lewiston Police Department said.
"There's more accidents than I can remember in such a short period of time," St. Laurent said.
Portland suffered a rash of accidents as well. A 17-car pileup tied up traffic around Deering and Park avenues, according to WGME Channel 13's website.