May 21, 2018
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Dozens of cars slide off highway after freezing rain coats the road in ice

BDN staff and wire reports

KITTERY, Maine — As freezing rain continues, the speed limit on a larger portion of the Maine Turnpike has been lowered to 45 mph.

After lowering the speed limit along the highway’s southern stretch Wednesday morning, state police requested the lower limit for a more northern stretch, covering between Exit 63 in Gray and Exit 109 in Augusta, on Wednesday afternoon.

Early in the day, state police reported 20 to 30 vehicles off the Maine Turnpike on a 20-mile stretch between Wells and Kittery in York County.

Motorists are being warned to use caution.

The freezing rain iced over highways in southern, coastal and eastern Maine, causing dozens of cars and trucks to slide off highways and roads.

Traffic was backed up miles into Maine after the New Hampshire Turnpike was closed.

Lorilei Richardson told the Bangor Daily News she sat in traffic for several hours as she made her way home for the holidays.

Bangor police answered nine accident calls by 1 p.m., Sgt. Paul Edwards said.

“Eight of those were between 11 and 12,” the sergeant said. The most serious “was a rollover into a ditch. No injury.”

The rest were drivers sliding off the road or running into each other, Edwards said.

As pedestrians slipped and vehicles slid on Waldo County’s roads and sidewalks, covered with black ice Wednesday morning, rescue workers and road crews kept busy.

“It’s bad,” said one harried dispatcher from Waldo County Regional Communications Center before she had to take another call.

In Waldo County, where the freezing rain began about 8:30, emergency crews received numerous reports of falling pedestrians and car accidents.

From 6 a.m. to 11:15, 16 accidents were reported around the county, according to Lt. Jason Trundy of the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office. Locations include Liberty, Unity, Knox, Stockton Springs and Belfast.

“There’s a lot of ice. Everything’s still covered with a sheet of it,” he said. “It’s a mess. Be careful.”

In Hancock County, police and emergency crews received dozens of reports of vehicles off the road and numerous accidents well into the afternoon. A stretch of Route 15 in Sedgwick on the Blue Hill peninsula was effectively shut down for some time Wednesday morning while law enforcement waited for DOT trucks to salt and sand black ice that had caused numerous cars to slide off the road.
Hancock County’s emergency dispatch center had received about 25 calls related to the slick roads by Wednesday afternoon. Lt. Tim Cote with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office said none of the incidents handled by his agency involved serious injuries.

“Things are better for the moment,” Cote said of road conditions at around 3:30 p.m. “If the temperature drops and it refreezes, we will be right back where we were.”

BDN writers Abigail Curtis, Kevin Miller and Nok-Noi Ricker as well as The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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