Fierce storm cuts power, shuts schools

Nick Fournier, 5, of Bangor readies to leap from a snowbank while enjoying a day off from school due to a storm Monday.
BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY KATE COLLINS
Nick Fournier, 5, of Bangor readies to leap from a snowbank while enjoying a day off from school due to a storm Monday.
By FROM STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS, Special to the BDN
Posted March 02, 2009, at 9:28 p.m.

A ferocious storm packing freezing rain, heavy snow and furious wind gusts paralyzed most of the East Coast on Monday, sending dozens of cars careening into ditches, grounding hundreds of flights and closing school for millions of kids.

The storm roared through Maine, dumping nearly a foot of snow that made driving difficult and closing state government and scores of schools. The storm also caused flight disruptions at the state’s two major airports.

As of Monday afternoon, Bangor and Portland each had received about 8.5 inches of snow, and falling snow was still whirling through the air.

Several accidents including a rollover were reported on the Maine Turnpike, but there were no deaths attributed to the snow in Maine.

The devastating effects of the storm were seen up and down the East Coast. A crash caused a 15-mile traffic jam in North Carolina, forcing police and the American Red Cross to go car-to-car to check on stranded drivers. The storm was blamed for 350 crashes in New Jersey, and a Maryland official counted about 50 cars in the ditch on one stretch of highway.

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The weather contributed to four deaths on roads in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and on Long Island.

Diane Lugo of Yonkers, N.Y., got a ride with her husband to avoid walking 10 minutes in the slush to her bus stop. “Getting out of the driveway was pure hell,” Lugo said. “He got to work late. I’m obviously late.”

The South was especially hard hit, dealing with record snowfalls, thick ice and hundreds of thousands of power outages in a region not accustomed to such vicious weather.

In North Carolina, Raleigh got more than 3 inches of snow; the March snowfall for the city has exceeded 3 inches only 11 times in the last 122 years. The Weather Service said parts of Tennessee received the biggest snowfall since 1968.

The 15-mile traffic jam in North Carolina caused no serious problems and authorities were able to get traffic moving again.

Travelers were stranded everywhere, with about 950 flights canceled at the three main airports in the New York area and nearly 300 flights canceled in Philadelphia. Boston’s Logan International Airport had to shut down for about 40 minutes to clear a runway, and hundreds of flights were canceled there.

Philadelphia declared a Code Blue weather emergency, which gives officials the authority to bring homeless people into shelters because the weather poses a threat of serious harm or death.

Dozens of schools across North Carolina, South Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Maine gave children a snow day. Schools in Philadelphia, Boston and New York City did the same. It was the first time in more than five years that New York City called off classes for its 1.1 million public school students.

University of Maine officials didn’t have to worry about canceling classes — Monday was the first day of a two-week spring break — although the snow launched a storm-day operating situation.

“Things change pretty significantly when it snows during spring break, because there’s less pressure to keep commuter parking lots clear,” UMaine spokesman Joe Carr said. “There is also considerably less traffic, which aids snow-removal efforts.”

All UMaine employees deemed nonessential according to their department’s storm-day staffing plan were allowed to leave at noon, according to a recorded message on the university’s hot line, which can be reached by calling 581-SNOW (7668). The decision was made at 11 a.m. to release employees, Carr said.

The school’s Hutchinson Center in Belfast was closed all day.

Normal operations at the Orono campus were expected to resume at midnight.

In Hancock County, officials closed most schools and some government offices on Monday.

No serious accidents were reported in the county and few other problems were reported during the day. Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. reported more than 2,000 customers without power, almost all of them in Washington County.

Power was out for about an hour Monday afternoon in Stonington and Deer Isle, according to a Bangor Hydro press release, but that was part of a planned outage to allow crews to make a needed repair.

The storm offered a hint of irony in a couple of cities elsewhere around the country.

People had to brave the snow and cold to attend the annual Philadelphia Flower Show, an indoor exhibition that provided a fragrant, springlike glimpse of yellow daffodils, crimson azaleas and white tulips. In the nation’s capital, hundreds of protesters gathered on Capitol Hill to protest a power plant and global warming during one of the worst storms of the year.

The snow began to accumulate in New Hampshire and Massachusetts as the storm moved north, but most residents there were taking it in stride.

“This is New England, after all,” said Dave Richardson of Salem, Mass.

BDN writers Jessica Bloch and Rich Hewitt contributed to this report. Associated Press writers Frank Eltman in Farmingdale, N.Y.; Jim Fitzgerald in Westchester County, N.Y.; Ula Ilnytzky and Amy Westfeldt in New York City; Russell Contreras in Boston; Ben Nuckols in Baltimore; and Bruce Shipkowski and Samantha Henry in Trenton, N.J., also contributed.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/03/02/news/bangor/fierce-storm-cuts-power-shuts-schools/ printed on September 16, 2014