AMHERST, Maine — The latest blizzard was over by the time eastern Maine residents woke up Thursday morning, but its hazards were still evident to many motorists who took to the roads.
A tractor-trailer headed east on Route 9 jackknifed around 1 p.m. Thursday, completely blocking the highway. The rig hit some slush in the road and started sliding as it was headed down a hill approximately a mile east of the Clifton-Amherst town line, Maine State Police Sgt. Tim Varney said.
The truck jackknifed with its cab going into the ditch on the south side of the road before the trailer came to rest upright but blocking the highway. The driver, Dennis Estabrooks of Canada, was unhurt but the cab had obvious visible damage and a diesel fuel tank ruptured in the accident, spilling about 55 gallons of diesel fuel into the snowbank by the side of the road.
Crews with the state departments of environmental protection and transportation went to the scene to help clean up the fuel and to make sure the road was clear of slush and safe to travel.
According to Osborn Fire Chief Allan Shorey, who went to the scene to assist while a wrecker pulled the truck out of the snow, the truck was carrying 10,000 pounds of candy.
Traffic was restricted along the affected section of road before the truck could be pulled out of the way. One lane of alternating traffic was open for a while, Shorey said, but the road was closed completely from about 3:45 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Through traffic between Brewer and Calais was redirected around the accident on Routes 180 and 181 through Clifton, Otis and Mariaville while Route 9 was shut down.
In Brewer, a two-vehicle crash sent two people to the hospital early Thursday.
The collision happened about 7:30 a.m. on Wilson Street, near Interstate 395, when a 2001 Chevrolet S10 driven by Susan Walton, 48, spun out and traveled into the path of a 2010 Prism driven by Duane Lane, 76, of Brewer, said Brewer police Sgt. Arden Jones.
“It looked a lot worse than it was,” Jones said. “Both [motorists] were taken to the hospital but it is not life-threatening.” Jones said Walton suffered a head injury and that Lane had a cut on his neck.
Both motorists were treated at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and released, a hospital nursing supervisor said.
“The roads were extremely slush-covered at the time,” Jones said. “I’m sure that played a big part of it.”
Walton was heading into Brewer and Lane was traveling in the opposite direction, Jones said. Both vehicles were demolished, he said.
Within seconds of that crash, William Baker, 53, of Bangor drove onto Wilson Street from the I-395 ramp and struck both of the vehicles with his 2008 Ford pickup, Jones said.
Jones said Baker was not traveling very fast. “After hitting them, he went a few feet down the road and stopped. There was not much damage to his vehicle,” Jones said. “He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Traffic was diverted around the crash until about 11 a.m., when wreckers were able to remove the vehicles from the roadway.
From 4 a.m. through midafternoon, state, county and municipal police from throughout Penobscot County dealt with dozens of accidents, though few resulted in injury. The accidents continued through the afternoon and into the evening commute, by which time roads were beginning to freeze.
“This is common after a big snowstorm,” Hampden police Sgt. Chris Bailey said. “People think the roads are clear when in essence there is glare ice underneath the snow.”
Maine State Police Trooper Trevor Snow said he handled four accidents in Greater Bangor that resulted in damage. He attributed all of them to “operators driving too fast for conditions.”
According to Thursday’s incident summary report from the Penobscot Regional Communications Center, county and local police handled more than 30 motor vehicle collisions from early morning through midafternoon.
Lt. Wesley Hussey of the Maine State Police barracks in Orono said troopers handled 21 accidents over the same period.
Though statistics weren’t immediately available, the trend continued through late evening.
Few of Thursday’s accidents resulted in injury, police and dispatchers said.
BDN writers Nok-Noi Ricker and Dawn Gagnon contributed to this report.