PORTLAND, Maine — Dozens of cars went off the road, colleges, offices and businesses closed, and events planned for much of Maine were canceled as a major winter storm swept through the state, bringing with it heavy wind gusts and more than half a foot of wet, heavy snow.
The National Weather Service said Friday’s storm could drop between 4 and 14 inches of snow, with sleet and rain mixing in some coastal areas.
At about 7:30 p.m., snowfall totals posted by the weather service’s Caribou office showed that once again the coastal and Down East parts of Maine were the hardest hit, with Penobscot County not far behind.
The snowfall was deepestl in Hancock and Washington counties, as has been the case with virtually all of this winter’s storms. As of Friday evening, the Hancock County town of Hancock held the day’s record at 11.5 inches, while Surry had 9 inches.
Also hitting the 9-inch mark were the Washington County towns of Wesley and Harrington. In Penobscot County, Millinocket reported 8 inches with Orono, Bangor and Springfield getting 6 or more inches.
Farther north, Guilford in Piscataquis County and Houlton in Aroostook County each got 5.5 inches.
The one-two punch of heavy wind gusts and soggy snow resulted in power outages in several midcoast communities, including Bar Harbor, Ellsworth, Hulls Cove, Lamoine, Seal Cove, Sedgwick and Surry, the outage page on Bangor Hydro Electric’s website showed at about 8 p.m.
Central Maine Power repair crews also were busy dealing with outages in several of that company’s service area with customers from Orland south to Portland in the dark.
The Maine State Police said dozens of cars slid off the Maine Turnpike, Interstate 295 and Interstate 95. The most serious accident was in York, where a man was critically injured when his pickup truck vaulted a guardrail on the Maine Turnpike, overturned at least twice and came to rest in the oncoming lanes. Troopers said Charles Waddell Jr., 47, is being treated at Portsmouth Regional Hospital in New Hampshire.
Gov. Paul LePage ordered state offices to close at 3 p.m. to allow state employees time to travel home in daylight. Piscataquis County offices and Bangor City Hall also closed by midafternoon.
Police say a state police cruiser was struck on the turnpike in Portland when another car slid into the rear of the cruiser while the trooper was out of the car investigating a crash. Nobody was injured.
In Penobscot County, the fender benders began to pile up shortly before noon and continued to mount as the evening commute got under way, according to county and state police emergency dispatchers. Despite the large number of accidents, there were no reports of serious injuries as of about 8 p.m., they said.
The Penobscot Regional Communications Center incident summary report showed more than 50 accidents through midafternoon on Friday. The total had climbed to 63 by about 7:30 p.m., a dispatcher said.
A dispatcher with the state police barracks in Orono said that personnel there fielded 36 cell phone 911 calls regarding motor vehicle accidents from noon to 4:30 p.m., though some of those accidents were handled by other law enforcement agencies.
The wild weather prompted dozens of cancellations, postponements and early closures on Friday.
Eastern Maine Community College, University College at Bangor and the University of Maine at Augusta were closed for the day, as were numerous town offices, public libraries and county offices, including those in Penobscot and Waldo counties.
Basketball tournament games set for Friday night at the Bangor Auditorium and a host of other activities ranging from bingo games and spaghetti suppers to dances and theater performances were postponed.
The University of Maine canceled a handful of classes scheduled for 4 p.m. and later.
In an unusual move, campus officials decided to keep residence halls open until 9 a.m. Saturday for students unable to leave for spring break because of the weather, spokesman Joe Carr said Friday. Carr said that residential life staff estimated that 1,000 to 1,200 of the 3,500 students who live on campus would be staying overnight.
One notable exception to the cancellations was Friday night’s UMaine hockey game against Merrimack College set for 7 p.m., which was scheduled to go on despite the storm.
In Waldo and Knox counties, dispatchers received a constant stream of accident calls Friday afternoon, mostly reporting vehicles sliding off the road.
The road conditions throughout the county were “greasy” thanks to the inches of wet snow falling during the storm, a Waldo County dispatcher said, adding that there hadn’t been any really serious accidents so far.
“Our road crews are really good,” she said.
The storm was causing problems throughout the East, delaying flights and closing scores of schools.
The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings for much of upstate New York. Forecasters said areas outside Albany could get 12 to 16 inches.
In a suburb of Rochester, a 34-year-old woman died Friday afternoon after she was hit by a Pittsford plow truck backing up in a parking lot.
Winds gusted up to 30 mph in some areas along Lake Erie.
A 30-mile stretch of the New York Thruway was closed by an accident south of Buffalo.
Flights out of New York’s metropolitan-area airports were delayed. Departures out of Newark Liberty International Airport were delayed an average of 3 ½ hours because of rain and wind.
Most flights were canceled Friday morning in Cleveland, though a spokeswoman said Hopkins airport remained open. Dayton’s airport shut down for about three hours Friday while slick runways were treated.
BDN writers Abigail Curtis and Dawn Gagnon and The Associated Press contributed to this report.