February 23, 2018
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Mainers dig out from whopper storm

By From Staff and Wire Reports, Special to the BDN

A powerful three-day winter storm that walloped much of the state this weekend dumped more than a foot of snow in most places, canceled plans, contributed to accidents and caused minor coastal flooding before drifting out of the area Sunday evening.

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service office in Caribou said Sunday afternoon that areas of Hancock and Washington counties were the “jackpot areas” in terms of snowfall amounts, with several towns receiving 18 inches of snow by the time the storm ended.

Meteorologist Tony Mignone at the weather service in Caribou said Eastbrook in Hancock County picked up 18 inches of snow, and Bucksport got 16 inches, as did Sedgwick.

“Washington County also got the most snowfall out of this event,” he said Sunday afternoon. “Cutler received 18 inches of snow, and other towns received 16 inches.”

Topsfield, also in Washington County, picked up 12 inches, and Jonesboro saw 8 inches.

No serious flooding or other weather-related incidents were reported Sunday by Hancock or Washington County officials.

In Penobscot County, East Millinocket also was hit with 18 inches of snow, while 7 inches accumulated in Millinocket. Fourteen inches fell in LaGrange, and Bangor saw close to 13 inches.

Aroostook County was not as hard hit by the storm, missing most of the action Friday. Snow did not start falling until Saturday afternoon in most places. That resulted in lower snowfall amounts, with some parts of the St. John Valley receiving only 4 inches of fresh powder.

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The most snow in The County fell in Island Falls, where 11 inches was recorded. Houlton picked up 10 inches, and 9 inches was recorded at the weather service office in Caribou.

“The farther north you went, the lower the snowfall amounts,” said Mignone. “Fort Kent, which normally sees a lot of snow during storms, only received 4 inches.”

Mignone said many County residents saw the snow lighten and turn to drizzle as the storm weakened. An intense low pressure system to the south and east of the region brought warmer maritime air across New Brunswick and into The County.

“After that, temperatures stabilized in the mid-30s,” he said Sunday. “Rain mixed in with the snow and that really reduced the blowing and drifting in the region.”

Public works crews were out in force throughout the duration of the storm to plow and treat roadways.

The Bangor Public Works Department banned parking in Kenduskeag Plaza over the weekend due to higher than normal tides. The Kenduskeag Stream stayed within its concrete banks Saturday and Sunday and did not overflow as it did in November.

Ryan Moody, a dispatcher with the Public Works Department, said that on Sunday night workers would be clearing sidewalks and removing high snowbanks from the city’s downtown and other heavily traveled areas. Crews also would be checking to make sure stormwater basins were cleared of snow since temperatures are predicted to be at or above freezing much of this week.

Bangor police and a dispatcher for the Maine State Police in Orono said things were quieter Sunday after a busy Saturday when police assisted numerous motorists who skidded off roadways or into snowbanks.

Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. reported about 2 p.m. Sunday that they were handling 782 reported outages due to heavy snowfall. By 5 p.m., power had been restored to all but a few homes in Bradford, Dennysville, Holden and Orono, according to information on the company’s Web site.

Central Maine Power Co. crews late Sunday afternoon were working to restore power in Arundel, Buxton, Greene, Lewiston and York, according to information on the utility’s Web site.

Outages did not appear to be widespread.

In the midcoast region, police and dispatchers reported a number of minor accidents Saturday and early Sunday, but no major incidents. In central Maine, a man in China apparently was injured when he was struck by a snowplow in a driveway. The Maine Warden Service and roughly 30 volunteers also were searching the China Lakes region Sunday for an 18-year-old snowmobiler missing since late Friday.

Midcoast towns also escaped the flooding that affected some southern coastal areas. In Lincolnville, the storm combined with the astronomical high tide Saturday to bring waters up to the base of the bridge near Lincolnville Beach, with only minor overflow onto the road. The tide also submerged most of the upper part of the public boat ramp in downtown Belfast and flooded a lower section of the waterfront parking lot. Rockland police reported no flooding problems Sunday afternoon.

The Bangor Public Works Department closed parking areas along the Kenduskeag Stream due to the unusually high tides predicted, John Russell, a foreman with the department, said Saturday afternoon.

High tide came and went about 11:30 a.m. Saturday in downtown Bangor and the stream stayed within its concrete banks, he said.

The astronomical high tides caused some flooding Saturday. At Seawall in Southwest Harbor, waves broke over the road and deposited rocks on the roadway. The high tides also caused brief flooding on Court Street in Machias.

There were few reasons to be out on the roads, as most events, including concerts, plays, community suppers and sporting events, were canceled.

In Bangor on Saturday, two people escaped injury after the vehicle in which they were riding flipped over and landed on its roof just off Interstate 95.

State police Trooper Darren Vittum said that Brian Bowdin, 65, of Hermon, lost control of his 2003 Ford Ranger pickup truck about 1:20 p.m. Saturday while traveling north on I-95, about a mile north of Hogan Road. The vehicle rolled over onto its roof before stopping.

Bowdin and his wife, Elizabeth Bowdin, 63, were uninjured. The trooper said Bowdin was traveling too fast for the road conditions.

The accident was one of 34 state police had handled on I-95 between Newport and Argyle by 3:30 p.m. Saturday due to the storm and drivers traveling too fast for the icy road conditions, Vittum said.

In Clifton, Nancy Owens, 38, of Baileyville, suffered a head injury when she lost control of her car on Route 9 early Saturday afternoon. Owens crossed the centerline and struck a guardrail. A car driven by David Johnson, 67, of Calais, then struck Owens’ car. Johnson suffered minor injuries, according to Trooper Chris Hashey.

In other counties, a few minor accidents were reported Saturday, none of which resulted in serious injury.

The weather service in Caribou reported that the highest wind gust was measured in Aroostook County, when a blast of wind peaked at 54 mph in Frenchville just after 1 a.m. Sunday. In Houlton, a wind gust of 47 mph was recorded, and whipping 43-mph wind gusts were measured in Caribou and Presque Isle early Sunday.

In Hancock County, the highest wind gust occurred in Bass Harbor, where a 39-mph gust was recorded. In Greenville in Piscataquis County, a 43-mph gust whipped through the area.

Caribou police Sgt. Ron Curtis said Sunday afternoon that police were “fortunate” and did not deal with any accidents in that area Saturday night or Sunday.

“Last night, the snow turned to rain and packed down the snow we had pretty well,” he said. “It was not that bad.”

Other Aroostook County police departments reported sporadic accidents, none of which was serious.

“We had a few cars go off the road, but they got back on pretty quickly,” Presque Isle police Sgt. Laurie Kelly said Sunday afternoon. “That was it.”

The storm was expected to leave the Northeast today, with a few lingering snow showers in the mountains throughout most of the week, and seasonable temperatures.

BDN writers Jen Lynds in Houlton, Kevin Miller in Belfast, Rich Hewitt in Ellsworth and Judy Harrison in Bangor, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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