Ice storm wreaks havoc on Maine

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LEWISTON — Tuesday’s storm played havoc with schools, vehicles and pedestrians. The icy conditions may have contributed to a fatal accident on Route 5 in Fryeburg and to the rollover of a municipal sand truck in Bridgton.

By 3 p.m., many of the main roads in the Lewiston-Auburn area were in decent shape, but parking lots and side roads that had not yet been treated were icy, officials said.

“The downtown seems to be fine,” Lewiston Public Works Director Dave Jones said. “But in the last 30 minutes, all of a sudden the outskirt roads are freezing over, the Ferry Road, Pinewoods, Cotton, Dyer. We’ve dispatched units.”

Jones added, “Generally, that’s what we’ll find in a storm like this when it’s hovering at freezing. The downtown gets enough traffic and keeps roads warmed up, but the outskirts tend to freeze over faster.”

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Lewiston Police Lt. Mike McGonagle was encouraging pedestrians to walk with extra caution to avoid falling. Motorists seemed to be in their winter mode: slowing down.

“There’s only been a few accidents,” including one involving a tractor-trailer that jackknifed at Apple and Ferry roads, and several cars that slid off those roads or into each other. The roads were so slick that police closed them until they could be sanded.

Some government agencies closed, including the Androscoggin County Courthouse, which closed at 1:30 p.m., cutting short the fifth day of the William True murder trial. It is scheduled to resume Wednesday.

“NO SCHOOL TODAY in Lewiston and Auburn,” Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster tweeted before daylight.

“I’m disappointed,” Webster said. “We’ve already lost one day (Dec. 3), then another this week. But hey, it is what it is.”

That’s two storm days before Dec. 21 when, according to the calendar, winter begins. Lewiston and Auburn schools budget five storm days per year.

“Today was not an easy call,” Auburn Superintendent Katy Grondin said. “It was not clear-cut or predictable.” She and Webster talked early in the day. “We used two different forecasters. We knew dismissal could be tough,” so they called school off, she said.

Schools in Poland, Mechanic Falls and Minot also were closed. “The second one of the year,” said Superintendent Tina Meserve, adding that canceling school is hard on everyone. “Keeping students and staff safe is always our top priority. Whenever we have evidence that traveling may be dangerous, we err on the side of caution.”

In Wales, RSU 4 Superintendent Jim Hodgkin at first said schools would open.

As daylight broke, “nothing was happening,” he said. “We knew we could get the kids to school” without any problems. The initial forecast showed there could be some sleet and snow but it would warm up by late morning.

“It hasn’t warmed up,” Hodgkin said just after noon. “It’s 26 degrees and raining,” with the rain freezing as it fell.

“It was a really tough call this morning,” Hodgkin said. He got word out that students would be released early to get students home during daylight. Middle and high school students were released at 11:30 a.m., younger students at 12:30 p.m.

More messy weather is in the forecast.

“I’m hoping Wednesday is just rain,” Grondin said.

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