RUMFORD – High winds and wet snow knocked out power to more than 34,400 Central Maine Power Co. customers from Bridgton to Rockland by 10 p.m. Tuesday, according to a CMP official in Augusta.

Crews are expected to be out all night and into Wednesday morning, due to high wind gusts, the strongest of which was 51 mph at 4 p.m. in Brunswick, according to National Weather Service hydrologist Tom Hawley in Gray.

Heavy snowfall, sleet and rain tied up police across the state as they responded to numerous accidents from morning into evening.

The culprit, which also knocked out power to the weather service’s Gray office by late afternoon, was a strong low pressure system centered over upper New York state and into New England, that was powered by winds out of the southeast, Hawley said.

By late afternoon, meteorologists expecting up to 5 inches of rainfall in some areas through the night, began issuing flood watches for rivers and streams from southern Oxford County to Cumberland County.

One flood warning was issued by 4 p.m. for the Presumpscot River in Cumberland County, which was expected to top its 15-foot flood stage by a foot sometime Tuesday evening, Hawley said.

By 5:20 p.m., all available Rumford firefighters were called to the station to handle a flooded basement, the seventh weather-related call of the day, Lt. Rob Dixon said.

Rainfall amounts by 5 p.m. were highest in York County where Hollis recorded 2.67 inches. Hartford had nearly 2 inches and Auburn had 1½ inches. Hawley said some areas of southern Maine could expect 3 to 4 inches of rain.

By 6 p.m., state police requested warning signs for Route 100, which was flooded just north of Cole Farms in Gray.

Phillips topped the snowfall amount list with 12 inches by 5 p.m., Hawley said.

Andover followed with 8 inches and Bethel had 6 inches.

Randolph, N.H., reported 17 inches of snow at 1,800 feet elevation by 3:45 p.m. before it changed over to rain, according to weather service bulletins.

Accidents started early and never let up as the first big snowstorm confounded drivers.

A jackknifed tractor-trailer truck and another unable to get up Morrison Hill on Route 2 in Dixfield reduced afternoon traffic to one lane for more than an hour. Another tractor-trailer jackknifed on Route 26 in Grafton Notch State Park near Screw Auger Falls, spilling diesel fuel.

Earlier, in Hanover, Route 2 traffic was reduced to one lane after Richard Stratton, 63, of Hanover, lost control of his 2007 Subaru station wagon while driving east toward Rumford, according to Oxford County Sheriff’s Cpl. Chancey Libby.

The wagon crossed the centerline about 7:30 a.m. and slammed head-on into a west-bound 2007 Jeep sport utility vehicle driven by Trina Belgrade, 41, of Mexico.

Stratton, who complained of neck and back pain was taken to Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, while Belgrade, who complained of leg pain, went to Rumford Hospital for treatment. Both vehicles were totaled, Libby said.

About 2:15 p.m., Libby was handling his 10th accident of the day, this one a pickup truck rollover off snow- and slush-covered Route 17 in Byron near the Franklin and Oxford county line.

And although his shift ended at 4 p.m., Libby said he would remain on duty to assist night-shift deputies with weather-related accidents.

The storm was expected to wane by evening across much of Maine. Even though winter doesn’t officially arrive until mid-December, another messy batch of rain and snow is expected to hit the area on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

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