PORTLAND, Maine — March arrived riding a blustery winter storm that dumped more than a foot of snow on parts of Maine on Thursday, closing schools, state offices and businesses and slowing traffic.
With snow still coming down in the early evening, the snowfall total in the Portland area was 13 inches. Biddeford had received 11 inches, according to the National Weather Service, while Augusta had 8 inches. Bangor had received 4 inches, as had much of Washington County, with more expected into the night.
The storm hit southern Maine hard but missed most of Aroostook County, according to the weather service in Caribou. The County already had a base of snow approaching 3 feet in depth, unlike most of the rest of Maine.
Snow lovers welcomed the storm after a dry February in which only 1½ inches of snow fell in Portland. The biggest storm of the year was on Jan. 12, when 8 inches fell there.
Earlier in the day, meteorologists with the weather service said they projected between 10 and 14 inches of snow in the city of Portland. At 7 p.m., the weather service logged 13 inches of snow in Portland and Scarborough.
The city of Portland announced a citywide parking ban starting at 10 p.m. Thursday and continuing until 6 a.m. Friday to allow crews to plow the streets overnight. A list of free or discounted parking spaces available to residents can be found on the city website.
In addition to school closings, many events slated to take place Thursday in Portland were postponed. A forum scheduled for members of the public to weigh in on a pedestrian and bicycling chapter of the comprehensive plan has been postponed until March 14, while a hearing of the Maine State Charter School Commission intended to take place at Deering High School on Thursday now will be held Monday night.
State government offices in Cumberland and York counties closed early Thursday, and state offices in Franklin, Oxford, Lincoln, Knox, Waldo, Sagadahoc, Hancock, Androscoggin and Kennebec counties followed suit at 1 p.m. The city of Portland’s Riverside Recycling Facility closed at noon, and City Hall was closed at 3 p.m.
Five-gallon buckets of sand and salt were made available for use by Portland residents at their homes, with the buckets located behind the castle at Deering Oaks Park and near the Cummings Center on Congress Street.
Meteorologist Margaret Curtis of the National Weather Service’s Gray office said nearly 11 inches of snow had fallen by 11 a.m. near the Maine-New Hampshire border, and the back end of the lumbering storm stretched all the way down the East Coast to New York. She said the snow was piling up at a rate of 2 inches per hour as the weather maker crossed the Granite State.
“We expect the snow to start winding down just after dark in Portland, and completely clear by just around midnight for all but the most eastern portions of the state,” Curtis told the Bangor Daily News. “There are a lot of localized heavy bands in this, so someone could get a few more inches in one neighborhood than someone else just three or four miles away.”
A Portland Police Department dispatcher said the city’s police had fielded a number of calls reporting vehicles sliding off roads but no serious accidents during the heaviest snowfall in the morning.
The storm hit other parts of northern New England.
Snowplow drivers who watched their hopes of a long, busy season melt away months ago were happy Thursday to get back to work.
“In October, I thought we were going to get all sorts of snowstorms and [it] was going to be a good season for plowing, but definitely not. It didn’t turn out quite like I thought it was going to,” said Adam Fowler of Concord, N.H. “But today’s a lot of snow, so we’ve gotten a couple of runs in. So it’s a good thing.”
An unusually early October storm dumped close to 2 feet of snow in Concord, but there’s been scant snowfall since. According to preliminary data from the National Weather Service, only 16 inches of snow fell in Concord from November through February, far below average. Thursday’s storm was expected to add more than 10 inches across much of New Hampshire, making it the biggest storm of 2012.
“I think we’ve done four, maybe five plows this whole season, so there’s not much plow work at all,” said Fowler, whose brother Ron owns Bush-Fade Landscaping.
Many schools in Vermont and most in New Hampshire already were closed this week for winter vacation, and some that had been scheduled to be in session in Vermont shut down because of the storm. Northern Vermont was expected to pick up 3 to 6 inches by late Thursday night, with 6 to 12 inches in the central and southern parts of the state.
Tony Vazzano, a meteorologist and owner of North Winds Weather in Center Sandwich, N.H., said he was having a “mellow” day Thursday.
“It’s nice and snowy,” said Vazzano. There’s no ice anywhere. There’s just a little bit of wind in places.”
Vazzano provides daily, individualized weather reports for 18 major ski areas in northern New England. He said his reports Thursday were well-received.
“They’re loving this,” Vazzano said. “Unfortunately there are some rain showers coming in Saturday morning, but that’s the kind of year it’s been.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.