A late-winter storm that produced near-blizzard conditions engulfed the entire state of Maine on Tuesday, burying roads, sidewalks and driveways under more than a foot of snow.
The nor’easter raged through the night and was expected to continue before tapering off in Portland sometime Wednesday afternoon.
Andy Pohl, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Gray, said the storm had the potential to drop another 6 to 10 inches of snow on Portland overnight.
Eight inches had fallen at the Portland International Jetport by 5 p.m., which means if Pohl’s prediction proves to be accurate, the March 13-14 storm will be one of the top-10 March snowstorms on record in the city. The record was set on March 12-14, 1939, when Portland recorded 21.9 inches. A total of 18.6 inches fell on the city March 13-14 in 1993.
According to the weather service, 75.5 inches of snow has been recorded in Portland this winter, which is 23.2 inches above the seasonal average of 52.3 inches. Before Tuesday, 17.3 inches of snow had fallen in March.
Tuesday’s nor’easter was the second to blow into the state in less than a week. Last week’s storm dropped 15.7 inches of snow on Portland.
Tuesday evening, Pohl said most of the state was on track to get 18 to 24 inches, but some towns hit by narrow bands of heavy snow might get more. Parsonsfield, near the New Hampshire border, was reporting 18 inches early Tuesday evening.
Wind gusts reaching 47 mph at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station were blowing snow around and creating near-blizzard conditions.
Pohl said it’s likely that Portland will have met the criteria for a blizzard – three or more hours of sustained wind or frequent gusts up to 35 mph or greater that lower visibility to less than one-quarter of a mile – but said the official determination probably wouldn’t be made until Wednesday.
STORM STRIKES HANDFUL OF STATES
The massive storm making its presence felt throughout the region.
The Associated Press reported that Boston was experiencing blizzard conditions, as were parts of parts of Massachusetts’ South Shore and Cape Cod.
The rest of New England was under a winter storm warning, and a winter weather advisory was in effect in most of New York state as well as portions of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and North Carolina.
In Massachusetts, blizzard conditions knocked out power to more than 200,000 customers and forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights.
Though there were no astronomical high tides during this storm, previous storms eroded beaches and sand dunes, leaving some coastal areas exposed.
A home at Ferry Beach in Saco – just north of Camp Ellis – was moved off its foundation by waves Tuesday morning.
Power outages started to roll in as well Tuesday afternoon, with more than 2,500 customers without power.
Nearly all of Central Maine Power Co.’s outages were reported in Rockland and Owls Head.
By 6 p.m. Tuesday those outage numbers had dropped significantly to just 317 CMP customers and 159 Emera Maine customers. Emera serves northern and Down East regions.
People stayed indoors for the most part during the storm, but a few were daring enough to venture outdoors.
STREETS DESERTED IN BIDDEFORD
In South Portland, on Baltimore Avenue, John Donahue finished his shift as a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service and went to work shoveling his driveway.
“It’s going to be snowing all night and we’re going to be doing this again in a few hours,” said Donahue, adding that he was not surprised by the severity of the storm. “We’ve had some good March snows before, so this is nothing new.”
In Biddeford, streets in residential neighborhoods were abandoned as heavy snow whipped by strong wind gusts blew through. Municipal plow trucks and front-end loaders tried to keep pace with the rapidly accumulating snow, but some dead-end streets had several inches of snow on the ground shortly after plow trucks passed through.
Schools and town offices across southern and central Maine were closed for the second time in a week because of snow.
None of the major school districts in Greater Portland had canceled Wednesday classes as of 8 p.m.
Most of the state shut down Tuesday. Banks, medical offices and child care centers closed for the day. Courts across Maine closed, driver’s license exams were called off and Meals on Wheels recipients were advised to use their storm packs.
State government offices were open in the morning, but closed at 12:30 p.m.
A full list of closings and cancellations is available at pressherald.com.
TRAVELING WILL BE ‘DANGEROUS’
The forecast prompted widespread cancellations and suspension of transportation on Tuesday, including at the Portland jetport, by Concord Coach Lines and the Amtrak Downeaster. The Greater Portland Transit District announced Metro bus service shut down at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
The flight-tracking site FlightAware reported more than 1,300 canceled flights within, into or out of the U.S. on Tuesday. Amtrak suspended all service Tuesday from Boston to New York’s Penn Station.
The speed limit was reduced to 45 mph for the entire length of the Maine Turnpike.
A public safety dispatcher said a tractor-trailer and a plow truck slid off the northbound lanes of the turnpike in Wells around 1:30 p.m. No injuries were reported, but the accident sent both trucks into the median and caused traffic delays.
State transportation officials asked drivers to stay off the roads to give plow trucks space to clear snow.
“With reduced visibility, high winds and heavy snow, it will be very dangerous,” said Ted Talbot, spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation. “We’re asking folks to restrict their travel.”
Talbot said 350 plow trucks would be on the road during the height of the storm. It takes each truck about an hour to make a complete loop on its route.
“When you have snowfall amounts of 1, 2, or more inches per hour, you will have snow on the road by the time the plow comes back,” he said.
Bob Marine, a meteorologist with the weather service in Gray, said the weather system that ushered in Tuesday’s storm is part of a repeating pattern in which the jet stream lines up just right to drive cold air from the West Coast to the Eastern Seaboard. The system gets shots of energy from the cold air off the mid-Atlantic states and coastal low-pressure systems develop. Sometimes the pattern is short-term and sometimes it can last a month. It can also break down very quickly.
“One moves out and the next one moves in,” Marine said. “This series is about every four to seven days. We’re just on the wrong side of it.”
BUSINESS AS USUAL FOR SOME
Despite early snow in York County, not everyone stayed home Tuesday.
In Buxton, a line of cars curled around the Dunkin’ Donuts and a few customers stopped into Hannaford for last-minute supplies. A supermarket employee pushed carts inside the store, lining them up in empty checkout lines.
It was business as usual at Libby’s Auto Repair in Berwick, where it began snowing in the early morning hours. Owner Jim Libby had a full day of work lined up, and was working in earnest to get everyone’s repairs finished before the storm and roads worsened.
“As long as we have power, we’re open,” he said.
On Congress Street in Portland, Joseph Kievitt hustled down the sidewalk with sandwiches from Rosemont Market & Bakery in a paper bag.
“I was ready for spring last week,” he said.
Kievitt, 75, planned to spend the afternoon inside watching the Detroit Tigers and the New York Yankees play a spring training baseball game.
“It’s nice to see Florida,” he said.
The Rosemont location on Munjoy Hill was bustling with shoppers just before lunchtime. Manager Emily Smith said the market would likely close in the early afternoon. Nearby residents often will walk in for supplies for soup or chocolate chip cookies.
“I’ve sold a ton of carrots, onions and potatoes today,” she said.
Smith returned to Maine on Monday from a family wedding in Florida. Her parents planned to fly home today.
“I’m pretty sure they’re still in Florida,” she said, laughing. “I booked the wrong flight.”
Staff Writers Bob Keyes, Eric Russell, Jessica Lowell, Megan Doyle, Peter McGuire, Ray Routhier, Joe Lawlor and Penelope Overton contributed to this report.
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:
Source link : https://www.pressherald.com/2018/03/13/powerful-storm-lumbers-into-maine-blizzard-like-conditions-by-midday/
Publish date : 2018-03-14 02:20:12