About 4,000 cars per hour were streaming through the turnpike’s toll booths.

PORTLAND (AP) – Maine closed out its summer tourist season Monday as vacationers headed home amid heavy Labor Day traffic and cloudy, fall-like weather.

Traffic started to pick up during the morning on the Maine Turnpike and a two-mile-long backup at the York Toll Plaza was reported by early afternoon.

An estimated 180,000 vehicles were expected to travel south on the toll road Monday, with traffic peaking between noon and 6 p.m.

Toll operators reported around 4,000 cars an hour during that peak period.

Total weekend traffic was estimated at around 700,000 vehicles, an increase from last year’s total of 685,000 vehicles for the entire weekend.

Miles the Maine Turnpike Moose made his annual visit to the toll plaza, helping toll collectors pass out 20,000 souvenir pennants featuring a collage of Maine attractions including moose, lobsters, lighthouses and snow-covered pines.

The moose was very popular with motorists, Turnpike Spokesman Dan Paradee said.

“He was very well received. For a while there it was absolutely a festive atmosphere,” he said.

Turnpike officials began handing out items on Labor Day five years ago as tokens of appreciation to motorists vacationing in the state.

Labor Day marks the traditional end to summer tourism in Maine, but officials said it was too early to compare this season’s overall results with those of past years.

“There’s some areas that have done well, some areas that have not done well, some areas that have done OK,” said Nat Bowditch, assistant director for the state office of tourism.

Summer sunshine appeared to be in short supply in parts of the state, especially during the first half of the season.

Average temperatures in Portland were about normal for June and July and rainfall was below normal during the period. But there were 22 days of fog or haze, including six days of heavy fog, in June and 25 days of fog or haze, including another six of heavy fog, in July.

AP-ES-09-01-03 1726EDT

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