LEWISTON — As winter storms go, Thursday's was standard stuff.
About a half-foot of snow fell over the course of the day. Schools were closed, basketball and hockey games postponed. Police said there were few car crashes because most people chose to stay off the roads.
Plows were out. Kids went sliding.
If there was anything singular about the all-day storm, it was that it was late to arrive. The roughly 6 inches that fell brought the total snowfall just up over 30 inches for the season. Surprising to some, the 33 inches that have fallen this season is actually above the average of 29 inches for this time of year. But most of that fell before official winter arrived.
In Lewiston, there were only two accidents all day Thursday and only one was weather-related. Neither was serious. Similar numbers were reported in other cities and towns. Most crashes were minor, although a fatality was reported in Vienna.
The snow mixed with rain and sleet in some areas. In Lewiston, it was mostly snow. It began falling at about daybreak and was still falling when day turned to night. The National Weather Service said the snow could become rain overnight and a little bit of that was expected on Friday, as well.
It's "more of a slippery mess than anything else," said Sue Conklin, an amateur meteorologist in Turner.
Mostly, the snow was just that: snow — scorned if you had to shovel a driveway; embraced if you were one to strap skies onto your feet.
"Today's storm may be a little behind schedule," went the seasonal crowing on the Sugarloaf ski resort website, "but that just means you'll have more untouched powder to slay tomorrow morning. Bring your broadswords. With a healthy dose of fresh snow, Martin Luther King Jr. weekend is shaping up to be pretty ideal."
Snowfall amounts were right on target. Forecasters had predicted between 5 and 9 inches and that's what we got. In Bridgton, 6 inches had fallen by suppertime. About 5 inches were recorded in Auburn, and similar amounts fell just about everywhere else.
Power outages? Even that wasn't a huge problem, in spite of the sometimes wet snow. At suppertime, just over 150 outages had been reported in all of Androscoggin County, most of them in Lisbon.
Plowing? For those who clear driveways for extra money, this winter has been rough. Thursday's snow was just enough that most people had to call on their favorite plow guy. Finally. One private plow operator referred to the long-awaited storm as "pennies from heaven."
Sledding? Yes, there was some of that. The hot spots in the area got fair numbers of kids (and a few adults) with sleds. That included Pettengill Park in Auburn, known for its fast sledding conditions. Also, Mount David in Lewiston, where Bates students have been known to slide down the hill on cafeteria trays. And Albert's Hill, next to the Post Office in Lisbon, known more for long rides than fast ones.
Snowshoers? They were out at places like Thorncrag Nature Sanctuary in Lewiston, Pineland Farms in New Gloucester and Mount Apatite in Auburn. It was the first time in more than a month that such activities were possible and it was hard to say how long the snow would last. For the upcoming week, at least, snow is not showing up on the radar screen.
"After this storm?" said National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Cempa. "No. No snow at all."
You might think that the long period with no snow puts us far below average for this time a year. But you'd be wrong.
The average snowfall total for this point in January is 29.1 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Gray. After a half-foot fell in most places Thursday, this part of Maine has actually seen 33 inches of snowfall this season.
How did it happen?
"It came in the fall, apparently," said meteorologist Michael Cempa.
Two early storms — one before Halloween, the other just before Thanksgiving — dropped a combined total of nearly 2 feet of snow, Cempa said. And with that already on the books, not much snow was needed to push us above average.
"Oh, by the way," said amateur meteorologist Sue Conklin. "The Farmer's Almanac predicted this storm."
Snowfall, in inches
New Gloucester: 7