Johnny Conlan, right, with his stepson Wren, 9, make a wall of snow while playing on the Eastern Prom during the snowstorm Thursday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Wet snow blew sideways and wind howled over the sloping hill of Portland’s Eastern Promenade on Thursday afternoon. Nobody was out enjoying the famous sledding hill save for Johnny Conlan, 38, his stepson, Wren, and his friend Jude.

Conlan helped the 9-year-olds pack the heavy snow into clumpy bricks, stacking them to form a wall between themselves and the wind whipping off the wild sea.

“Look, Jude!” Wren shouted, as he pressed his face against the tightly packed bricks and stuck out his tongue. Jude laughed.

“Hey, think about what you’re licking,” Conlan told him.

The 4.5 inches of snow recorded in Portland on Thursday morning was ushered in by a rare spring storm. And after a largely snowless winter in Maine, some welcomed it.

“I mean, we might as well have the snow. It is Maine,” Conlan said of the unusual weather. His son felt differently.


“The snow is painful,” Wren said, pointing to his red cheeks. “It’s like, when it’s winter, there’s no snow. And when it’s getting close to summer, there’s snow.”

“I’m just mad because there’s been like no snowstorms before now,” said Jude.

Beka Bryer of Portland makes her way down a snow-covered sidewalk on Brackett Street in Portland on Thursday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The heavy snowfall began Wednesday evening and was expected to continue into Friday. Officials closed state and municipal offices and schools and advised people to stay home if possible.

Kris Guimond commuted from East Waterboro at 6 a.m. to open the Hannaford in Sanford where she works. The trip took twice as long as usual. More than a foot of snow was recorded in nearby Acton.

By the time she left home, the snow had been falling for hours and the slippery roads were made more treacherous by downed trees.

Walking to her vehicle wearing fuzzy gray earmuffs after her shift wrapped at 1:30 p.m., Guimond said she was done with winter weather.


“It can go away. I want spring,” she said.

Stephen Baron, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said the last time Maine saw snowfall like this in April was in 1996.

“The thing I find most annoying is we got no snow all winter and now we’re getting it,” said Beka Bryer, 31, a substitute teacher for Portland Public Schools. “But I guess maybe that’s just how it’s going to be with climate change.”

Matthew Bampton, 62, a professor at the University of Southern Maine, said the unusual weather was on his mind as he rode his bike along a slushy Brackett Street on Thursday morning.

“It’s both totally normal and completely unusual,” he said.

Matthew Bampton of Portland bikes down Brackett Street during the snowstorm Thursday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

He said he’s seen late spring storms before and remembers when he walked to nearby Mercy Hospital through snow flurries with his wife in April of 2001, when she went into labor with their daughter.


“What’s weird is that it’s happening after the warmest winter on record and we know the climate is changing – we can see it,” Bampton said.

Bampton said when he woke Thursday morning to falling snow, he strapped on his bike helmet and headed outside.

“I love being in the weather, I love Maine. I have to come out and see this stuff. I can’t sit in the house. This is what I do.”

John Southall, of Freeport, pumps gas at Cumberland Farms in Portland during his commute to work Thursday. He said he saw a tree catch fire after hitting a power line. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

John Southall, 53, wasn’t quite so eager to see the storm up close. He’s an emergency medicine doctor at Maine Medical Center. He stopped at Cumberland Farms to get gas after a harrowing commute to work from Freeport.

“It is deceptively slippery snow. It’s very wet. The traction is poor. I don’t feel like anyone should be on the roads right now,” he said.

During his commute, he saw a tree fall in front of his car and catch fire after hitting a power line.

“I wish this would’ve happened in January. It would have been great then, but I’m ready for warmer weather now,” Southall said.

Staff Writer Hannah LaClaire contributed to this report. 

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