Having fun yet? Storm drops at least half foot of snow on region

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You know the routine: Schools were closed for the day. Businesses shut down early. Courts and government offices were closed, and police warned of parking bans as a quick-moving storm dropped about a half-foot of snow across the region.

In the Lewiston area, the snow began shortly after noon. For the next few hours, it snowed heavily, dropping as much as 2 inches an hour on some areas, according to the National Weather Service Office in Gray.

The timing was not great. By the evening commute, nearly half a foot had already fallen and the roads were messy. Traffic was light in most areas — almost nothing was open, after all — but it was also slowed to a crawl by sloppy roads and poor visibility.

Shortly before 5 p.m., a tractor-trailer slid out of control on the Maine Turnpike, coming to rest across both lanes near mile 100 south of Gardiner. While emergency crews responded and attempts were made to move the truck, traffic was diverted to the Sabattus exit. The truck was cleared from the road and the travel advisory lifted within an hour.

The speed limit on the turnpike had been dropped to 45 mph earlier in the day.

By 8 p.m., 7 inches of snow had fallen in the Auburn area, according to weather officials. Nearly 9 inches were recorded in Bridgton, while between 6 and 7 inches fell across Oxford County.

Social media early in the day were dotted with messages from businesses announcing that they were closing, if they had opened at all.

“Due to the impending storm,” said the message on Lewiston’s She Doesn’t Like Guthries Facebook page, “we will be closing around 3 o’clock today! Sorry for any inconvenience. We hope you enjoy your snow-filled afternoons.”

“We’re closing up shop at 2 p.m.,” according to the Goodwill New England page. “Please be safe out there!”

Repeat for dozens of businesses across the region. The result was fewer cars on the road, which was appreciated by police and anyone who has to answer for crashes and other emergencies.

“Everything is quiet right now,” Tim Hardy, the director of Franklin County Emergency Management Agency, said shortly after 3 p.m.

Lt. Michael Ward with the Oxford Police Department said that as of 5 p.m., there hadn’t been any accidents or cars off the road.

“So far, so good,” he said. “Tomorrow morning, it may be a completely different story, but right now, it seems like people are either staying off the road or driving safe.”

Oxford Road Foreman Mark Fox attributed the lack of difficulties to the snowfall “not coming down as heavy as we thought where we are.”

“Right now, it’s almost 5:30 p.m., and we have about 4 inches,” Fox said. “It makes it easier to clear the roads, which means it’ll be easier to clean up in the morning.”

He said when the temperature drops below zero overnight, cleaning up after a storm becomes difficult, but “the last time I looked, the temperature is going to be around 20, so cleaning should be a lot easier.”

For some, the novelty of snow seemed to have worn off now that winter has reached its middle point. In Lewiston, on Webster Street at about 4 p.m. Wednesday, a man in work coveralls pulled a little girl on a rainbow-colored sled. Otherwise, it was hard to find anyone having fun in the fresh snow.

The hills around the Androscoggin Bank Colisee were empty. Kennedy Park looked deserted and there wasn’t a soul on the steep hill behind Holy Family Church on Sabattus Street — one of the city’s best sledding spots.

While plenty of businesses closed, supermarkets, gas stations and auto parts stores stayed open. Clerks at both Shaw’s and Hannaford in Lewiston-Auburn reported brisk business throughout the day before things quieted around the supper hour.

O’Reilly Auto Parts on Sabattus Street saw a lot of business as motorist after motorist came in for items such as windshield wipers, windshield cleaning fluid and salt.

“Whenever it snows like this,” a clerk said, “it becomes National Windshield Wiper Day.”

The next couple of days are expected to be clear before snow returns Friday, with a chance of up to 3 inches in the forecast.

A pedestrian crosses Main Street in Lewiston during Wednesday’s snowstorm. The storm was expected to drop about a foot of snow throughout the region. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

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