Mother Nature loves her surprises.
Forecast to be a fair-sized storm earlier in the week, Wednesday's winter blast growled louder than expected. By noon, there was already a half-foot or more of snow in most areas and the storm showed no sign of slowing.
It piled up high in driveways and roadsides and the wind was howling. The snow came faster — weather officials said it was falling up to 2 inches per hour — than plows could shove it aside.
By the middle of the afternoon, the forecast was upgraded — instead of a measly 6 to 10 inches, meteorologists were calling for up to 18. By nightfall, many areas approached that depth.
Lewiston saw 15 inches of snow before it was dark while more than 16 inches was reported in Lisbon. Between 10 and 12 inches fell across Oxford County while Cumberland County saw slightly more.
By suppertime, Central Maine Power reported just under 2,000 customers were without power, most in Lincoln County, according to a CMP spokesman.
In Auburn, Mark Pendleton adopted an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach to the storm. Shortly after noon, while the wind was still howling and the world looked white in all directions, he put on snowshoes and made the roughly 1 mile journey to a market. His quest? Ice cream.
"He's back," wife Kathie Roach Field Pendleton said a short time later. "He got Blue Bell hot fudge sundae. We put it in our coffee, ate/drank it and now he's taking a nap, getting ready to snowplow the driveway later."
Pendleton wasn't alone in the snow removal part of the quest. With most people staying off the roads unless they had to be out, it seemed at times there were more snowblowers roaring than cars and trucks.
The first major storm of the new year had some people grumbling. Others were quick to point out some obvious truths: It's January in Maine. It's winter. Snow is inevitable.
"I have never really understood why people who claim to 'hate the cold and snow' continue to live in Maine," said Anissa Roberts of Lewiston. "Every year they gripe and complain about the weather from October to April. Bottom line — no one's holding a gun to your head forcing you to live here."
"I love snow," said Pat Malcolm of Lewiston. "I moved to Maine because it was too warm in winter and often not enough snow where I was in New York. Can't wait to get my snowshoes down to Reid (State) Park beach!"
"People need to quit spazzing," Christina Carrier Thistlewaite of Lewiston said. "It's winter and it snows during this season."
Skiers were ecstatic. At Sugarloaf, officials said 6 or 7 inches of new snow had fallen on the slopes. They expected 10 inches by Thursday morning as well as temperatures in the upper teens or low 20s. Near perfect skiing conditions.
"It's going to be a powder day here tomorrow so take a personal day," advised a message on the Sugarloaf website. "Call in sick, or do what you must to get out on the hill."
Likewise at Sunday River, where officials measured 10 inches of fresh snow late in the day.
"Mother Nature," declared their website message, "is being good to us!"
With schools, businesses and government offices closing up early, a lot of people found themselves with the option of staying home. Just a quick errand outside, though, was enough to emphasize the power of the storm.
"Went out to get the mail," said Jim Palmer of Auburn, "and came back in looking like Frosty the Snowman. All for a bank statement."
By 7 p.m. Wednesday, the storm was mostly winding down in the Lewiston area. Winds were still whipping and snow blew in all directions. City plows were cleaning up and snow blowers buzzed up and down driveways. By Thursday, things should look more manageable: The forecast calls for clear skies and temperatures in the high 20s or low 30s. Perfect clean-up weather.
Barring any surprises.
Some days, you have to accept that A for effort and call it good.
Like thousands of others Wednesday, Bonnie Lee, of Auburn, did her best to battle the elements in order to get where she needed to be – in Bonnie's case, the Intercoast Career Institute in South Portland.
Was it worth all the white-knuckles and gritted teeth?
"Okay, so today was the first day of the rest of my life. I start nursing school today. Given the fact that during orientation, we were told that this particular school 'very rarely' cancels classes, and if we miss a class or we are late, we lose points.
"So, picture this: I was so excited to start the first day of the rest of my life, I got no sleep until 2:30a.m. However, I was wide awake at 4:30 a.m. ready to face my day! No snow when I got up, good sign. So, I turned on the tv to check for the cancellations, the IRS was closed, every school in most counties, but not mine. I then called the school and no answer, so off I went, dressed in my new white pants, blue scrub, white shoes, and my hair in a pony tail, and a strategically placed band aid to cover my two inch tattoo on my wrist.
"Okay, now to clean off the car, turn on the rear defrost, defroster and windshield wipers. No coffee, there is no time and the road was quite messy. Here I go, not so bad, GPS says to go left. I take a right because I know how to get on the turnpike. It was a little slick until I got to New Gloucester. Then once I got about 18 miles into my ride; snow blind!
"A big semi truck passes me, I mean who wouldn't, I was doing only 30 miles an hour and about 500 feet visibility. All that I could see was white and then my windshield wipers gathered so much ice that I had to pull over and fix them.
"Call the school again. Ring, ring, ring, no answer. I decide to take the next exit and go back home. There I went, but now, route 100, no sand, no tar, completely white and the wind is whipping across the road, but my mind plays tricks on me: is the road really the road? Will I be another statistic in the ditch?
"Just when I start to lose my sense of direction, ahead there is a blinking yellow light. At last, a familiar place! A store I remember. I pull over, fix the wipers, grab some coffee and complain to the cashier and he sticks up for the highway crew. 'Well, they can't sand until the snow is off the road,' he says. So, back on the road I go, 25 miles an hour now and a line of traffic behind me. Finally, I get to Auburn and I call the school. Wow, they answer. I say, 'I tried to make it in but it is very bad on the road.'
She says, 'Oh that's okay, today is optional." I say okay thank you.
"Optional? Optional? Why wasn't that on the cancellation list: come to school if you want?
"So, after all of this, I never did make it to the first day of the rest of my life. I guess I will have to settle for the second day of the rest of my life."
South Paris 8.5
Sunday River 10
Source: National Weather Service