Freezing rain makes travel hazardous

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Freezing rain created “treacherous” road conditions in Western Maine on Saturday and left 7,000 households across the state without power.

As of 8:28 p.m., Oxford, York and Cumberland counties each were reporting more than 2,000 customers without electricity, according to Central Maine Power. An automated message blamed the outages on “current weather conditions.”

Earlier in the day, driving was hazardous and cars were sliding off roads throughout Franklin, Oxford and Androscoggin counties.

Brad and Carolyn Gaudreau of Albany Township were driving through Norway at 11 a.m, and said they had not seen any accidents on their way from Bethel, but conditions were beginning to worsen.

“The roads are icing up,” Carolyn Gaudreau said. “But we have four-wheel drive, so we’re not sliding.”

At noon, National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Pohl said to expect freezing rain for the rest of the afternoon.

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Before the icing and rain began, which was around 11 a.m for most parts of the state, snow totals ranged from about 3 inches in Rangeley to 9 inches reported in Bethel, according to the National Weather Service.

Lewiston reportedly had 5 inches and Auburn had received 6½ inches.

WCSH 6 reported 114 closings throughout the state as of noon Saturday.

Danny Ojeda of Lewiston said the roads for his morning commute were “treacherous,” and he saw one accident on Interstate 95 near exit 80 in Lewiston.

Maine State Police reduced the turnpike speed limit to 45 mph.

“Even at the lowered speed on the interstate it was slippery and big rigs were zooming past people, making it even more dangerous,” Ojeda said.

According to The Associated Press, slippery conditions on the Maine Turnpike in Kittery contributed to a crash between a tractor-trailer and a car that spun out, temporarily blocking the southern end of the highway.

State police said no one was injured in the crash Saturday morning when the truck crashed into the median and ended up in the northbound lanes under an overpass.

Police said the car, which was traveling too fast for conditions, skidded in the southbound lane in front of the truck, which collided with the car.

“It snowed, it sleeted, it rained, now it’s snowing again,” said Lainey Cross of Bethel at noon Saturday. She took pictures of the snow-covered trees in her front yard and watched them slowly ice over as the snow turned back into rain.

Cross drove from Rumford to Bethel for work Saturday afternoon and said she had to pull over once to scrape the accumulating ice off her windshield. She said the road crews were doing a good job, but the conditions were terrible.

“I am concerned about my co-workers at the hospital having to travel home tonight, and those coming in tomorrow morning,” Cross said. “I can only hope the roads will be better. However, if the temperature drops, it doesn’t look promising.” 

Dan Bradbury of the Bethel branch of the Maine Department of Transportation said his plow crews used almost 80 tons of salt from midnight to 3 p.m. Saturday.

“We use a lot of salt, twice as much salt with freezing rain,” Bradbury said. “We’re scraping it down, and we got to keep salting. Freezing rain is a lot harder to treat than regular snow.” 

Darcy Lambert, communications director for Sunday River, said thanks to the snow, guests were “very happy,” and as of 1 p.m Saturday, the freezing rain had shut down a couple of lifts because of icing, but nine were still fully operational.

“Things are awesome right now,” Lambert said. “We have between 9 and 11 inches of new snow from this storm, so we’ve been able to open a lot more terrain, including gladed areas, which are trails that go between trees. That means we have a solid base underfoot. As far as the icing goes, we haven’t been hit that hard.”

Registered nurse Melissa Worden clears ice from a colleague’s car at the St. Mary’s Family Birthing Unit parking lot in Lewiston on Saturday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Jeremiah Beaudoin heads to his girlfriend’s house on Webber Avenue to give her a Christmas present in Lewiston on Saturday. Beaudoin and Lianne Marquis have been seeing each other for nine years. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Richard Perron of Lewiston shovels the wet, crusty snow at the end of his driveway on Farwell Street on Saturday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Jeremiah Beaudoin heads to his girlfriend’s house on Webber Avenue to give her a Christmas present in Lewiston on Saturday. Beaudoin and Lianne Marquis have been seeing each other for nine years. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

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