Winter storm plows into Maine

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Storm information

Get updated National Weather Service forecasts for Maine.

What this means for traveling

This is a mess. The heaviest snow is expected during the Thursday evening commute. But sleet can make the Friday morning commute worse.

Here’s what you need to know to plan for safe traveling:

Did you know that your car’s cruise control could be dangerous in slippery conditions? Refresh your knowledge of winter driving tips from MaineDOT.

Parking bans

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For some of us, it’s not enough to avoid driving on the roads. We can’t even park our cars on some city streets. Here’s a list of municipal parking bans in our area:

  • Auburn: 3 p.m. Thursday to 3 p.m. Friday
  • Lewiston: 6 p.m. Thursday to noon Friday (parking ban information)
  • Lisbon: 8 a.m. Thursday to midnight Friday

Power to the people

Central Maine Power crews are returning to Maine after helping restore power in Pennsylvania. They will be here just in time if heavy snow brings down our power lines.

Emergency supplies

The Red Cross has a list of what you should have to be ready for a winter storm.

Need to know

The Sun Journal has created a list of Twitter accounts that broadcast useful information for monitoring the weather and road conditions. The accounts include:

You can search #MEWX in Twitter for more weather updates.

In addition to these social media accounts, SunJournal.com has updates and shares news on its website, Facebook page and the Twitter account @SunJournal.

The Maine Emergency Management Association has a collection of winter preparation resources

In the South, it was a nightmare.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Georgia and North and South Carolina were without power by midday Thursday as the storm made its way up the coast. Much of Washington, D.C., was shut down.

Nearly 6,000 domestic U.S. flights were canceled and another 1,000 were delayed. Schools were closed. Thousands of people retreated to temporary shelters set up in gyms, airports and armories.

“We got about a foot here, but my car is buried under a drift,” said Joe Gromelski, formerly of Lewiston but now living in the D.C. area. “It stopped now, but they say it’s gonna start again tonight and we might get another foot. And it’s heading your way.”

He was right: Life was tough in the lower states, but guess what? By the end of the day it was no picnic up here, either.

The snow began falling in Central Maine shortly before noon. In the Twin Cities and most others in the region, school officials surrendered to the promise of nasty weather, sending the kids home early and already mulling Friday’s situation.

Gov. Paul LePage announced that state offices in Androscoggin, Cumberland, Kennebec and York counties were closing at noon Thursday due to the storm.

By 2 p.m., there was enough snow on the ground to make driving a hassle. Cars and trucks began slipping off roadways just about everywhere. In Winthrop, a tractor-trailer that slid out of control forced the closure of a section of Route 202 near Main Street. At least one injury was reported in the wreck that caused traffic problems up and down Route 202. One commuter said he had to drive through Readfield to make his way from the Augusta area back to Lewiston. At least one additional wreck was reported as drivers sought alternative routes along roads that had become slick.

A couple of hours later on the Maine Turnpike, a crash was reported between Gray and Falmouth. Southbound motorists were advised to expect delays as cleanup began.

In Lewiston and Auburn, few crashes were reported throughout the day. Police said advanced warning of the storm helped, with many people staying off the roads if they didn’t have to be out.

On social media, the toll of yet another winter storm was evident: The chatter on Facebook started early in the day and it was all about the weather. People reported stocking up, lying low and anticipating winter’s latest show of wrath.

“If you need me,” one area woman wrote, “I will be laying under every blanket I own in the fetal position, loudly sobbing.”

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” posted another. “Again.”

And of course, several comical cartoons were circulating, so colorfully expressing disdain for the grind of winter, their messages cannot be reprinted here.

The Weather Channel named this particular storm Pax, moving through the alphabet as it has done for the past two years. For most Mainers, that meant about 6 inches of snow by nightfall, and the promise of perhaps another 6 by Friday morning.

With snow expected to be heavy, power crews were on standby, prepared for downed lines and power outages. By late in the day Thursday, 100 customers were without power, most of them in Oxford County. But Central Maine Power was expecting further problems as the storm intensified.

“We’ve put our storm response plan into motion, and we’re watching the forecast closely,” CMP spokeswoman Gail Rice said. “The heavy snow, sleet and rain forecast for Thursday could cause considerable snow and ice buildup on roadways, tree limbs and power lines. Combined with gusty winds, this could result in power interruptions and difficult travel, so we’re getting crews, equipment and materials in place to respond.”

Lewiston and Auburn were in near whiteout conditions just as night arrived. Winds were whipping up to 25 mph, blowing snow into drifts. Cars and trucks moved slowly on city roads as weary workers tried to make their way home. In Lewiston, one city plow truck was out of service but the rest continued to rumble and roar across the city into the night.

In Lewiston, no one was sliding at Marcotte Park or any of the nearby hills during the supper hour. Down the road, the parking lot at Shaw’s was full, as it had been most of the day. Many people inside were stocking up on the essentials — toilet paper, water, candles and batteries — although plenty were hauling beer and wine, as well. On the eve of Valentine’s Day, several men rushed through the store carrying plastic-wrapped flowers and boxes of chocolates.

The list of cancellations and closures went on and on, with everything from sporting events to nightclub acts postponed.

By 8 p.m., 6 inches of new snow was recorded in the Lewiston area, according to the National Weather Service in Gray. Only 5 inches were officially reported in Oxford County, although an East Dixfield woman said she measured closer to 8 inches at 8 p.m.

While everyone seemed to be digging their cars out of snowbanks and lamenting the onset of cabin fever, it was easy to believe that the snow is universally despised. Not true.

“Most of the people are all, ‘Oh, my God, it’s snowing, stop everything, the world is going to end,'” wrote Rebecca Westleigh, a FairPoint service technician who spent most of the day outside. “And I’m over here all like, ‘Yeah baby! I get paid to play in the snow!”

And as always, while most were groaning and griping, the ski areas were giddy with the arrival of more snow. At Sunday River, they were literally dancing.

“Call us superstitious,” stated the celebratory message on the Sunday River home page. “Call us whatever you want, but our snow dance is working and, just like the snowfall, we have no plan of stopping. So, flip that snow dance tape over to side two. We’re in for the long haul, people. Over a foot of powder expected on the most open terrain in the East. Love isn’t the only thing in the air on the eve of this Valentine’s Day … get it? ‘Cause it’s snowing.”

For the rest, the forecast was grim. Snow was expected to turn to ice and sleet overnight before turning back to snow just before the Friday morning commute. More snow was forecast for the rest of the day and into the weekend before clearing on Sunday.

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