BANGOR, Maine — Less than a week after an ice storm knocked out power to more than 230,000 homes and businesses in the state, Mainers found themselves Wednesday dealing with wintry weather.
Up to half a foot of snow was expected to fall in parts of the state during the midweek storm, which began Wednesday morning and wasn’t expected to let up until early today.
Wednesday’s snowstorm, the first in a string being forecast through Christmas, brought the usual mix of cancellations and postponements for schools, businesses and government facilities.
The latest storm hit even as crews from Central Maine Power made a final push to restore electricity to the remaining 397 of its 220,000 customers who lost power in last week’s ice storm.
CMP spokesman John Carroll said crews also were ready to respond if more outages occurred from cars sliding into utility poles on roads made slick from the new snowfall.
Carroll said CMP even planned to send crews to New Hampshire to help utilities there restore electricity to roughly 74,000 customers still without power Wednesday afternoon. That number was down from 430,000 at the peak of the storm.
A spokesperson for one N.H. utility said Wednesday that for some customers, the power may not be back on for Christmas.
Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. officials, who dealt with an estimated 12,000 customers without power last week, reported no new outages Wednesday.
Slippery roads meanwhile tested Mainers’ driving skills, causing dozens of accidents around the state, though none had resulted in any serious injuries as of late evening.
Air travelers had an easier go of it. Arrivals and departures at Bangor International Airport and the Portland Jetport were largely on schedule, with a handful of delays of under 15 minutes at both.
Dispatchers in Knox and Waldo counties reported few incidents as a result of Wednesday’s snowfall. Roads were slick, and police and tow truck operators in both counties responded to incidents in which vehicles skidded off snowy roads.
“There were a couple of vehicles off the road here and there this morning, but it’s been pretty quiet,” a Knox County regional communications center dispatcher said.
In Waldo County, the communications center reported calls of “about five or six” vehicles off the road “but no injuries.”
Sheriff’s departments in Hancock and Washington counties also reported only a few minor accidents due to slippery conditions.
In Aroostook County, Caribou and Fort Kent had received 2 inches of snow by midafternoon. The area was expected to get twice that before storm ended. Police dealt with several reports of cars off the road in Presque Isle, while minor accidents with minimal damage were reported in Houlton and Caribou. Locations in the St. John Valley had no reports of accidents or cars off the road.
Down East Maine was expected to receive more snow, according to Mark Bloomer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Caribou, with up to 6 inches possible before the storm wound down. Up to 6.5 inches was forecast in the Millinocket area and 5.5 inches in the Bangor area.
Aside from a dozen minor accidents during the morning commute, the weather caused few problems, according to state, county and local police in northern Penobscot County.
A half-dozen minor accidents, usually cars sliding off the road, occurred between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., Lincoln police Sgt. Kevin Giberson said.
The worst involved a three-vehicle pileup at about 8 a.m. that began when Judy Stevens, 48, of Lincoln crossed the centerline while driving north on North Main Street in her Chevy mini-van and struck a southbound Ford Focus driven by Carol Tuck, 63, of Wytopitlock, Giberson said.
Stevens’ vehicle spun after the collision and hit a third vehicle, a southbound 1998 Chevy Blazer driven by Calvin Downs, 79, of Mattawamkeag. Stevens’ daughter Christie Stevens, 28, of Lincoln suffered minor injuries and was taken to Penobscot Valley Hospital of Lincoln and released, he said.
A deer was struck by a vehicle on Interstate 95 in Patten, state police said, while several minor fender-benders also were reported in the Howland-Enfield area. No accidents were reported in the Katahdin region, police there said.
In Bangor, a parking ban went into effect from 11 p.m. Wednesday through 6 a.m. today to allow city public works crews to clear sidewalks and parking lots in time for a new business day.
While the snow slowed traffic, it boosted sales at some stores around the state where customers were looking for such items as snow scrapers, rock salt and windshield wiper fluid.
Linda Clark, owner of Mac’s True Value Hardware in Unity, said her customers appeared to like the store’s new polyester scoop-shovel.
“Today they’re going out the door,” Clark said Wednesday.
Tom Burr, manager of Renys in Pittsfield, said Wednesday afternoon that the snowy weather is a mixed blessing.
“Snow’s good, but it hurts the day of the snow,” Burr said. “The day before and after it helps.”
At its busiest lately, Renys has been drawing about 400 people per day, Burr said. With snow and holiday shopping, people have been buying ski pants, ice melt, boots, shovels — “anything to do with outdoors,” Burr said.
Even so, getting a healthy dose of snow the week before Christmas “doesn’t help,” Burr said, because most holiday shoppers tend to stay home during snowstorms and “it’s killing today’s business quite a bit.”
Bangor Daily News writers Walter Griffin, Jen Lynds, Dawn Gagnon and Nick Sambides, The Associated Press and the Lewiston Sun Journal contributed to this report.