May 24, 2018
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‘Life in Maine in the wintertime’ causes a mess on state roads

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
A tow truck pulls out John Arbo's vehicle from the ditch after he lost control on the slush-covered road and slid from the off-ramp between I-395 and Route 202. Arbo was not injured, and there was some minor damage to his car. Police were dealing with many similar accidents as the morning snow turned to rain and froze on the roadways.
By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Vehicles were sliding off slick roadways all across the state Monday, keeping police and rescue personnel, utility repair crews and public works employees busy.

Two vehicles that crashed early Monday knocked out power Down East, at least two tractor-trailers jackknifed, and one woman in Blue Hill was trapped in her car after bringing down utility wires.

None of the crashes caused serious injury, police officials said. The snow conditions caused a number of cancellations, however.

“I was hitting the offramp and hit a little slush, and it took me right around,” said Belfast resident John Arbo shortly after his Honda Acura was pulled from a Bangor ditch. “I don’t have my studded snows on yet.”

Arbo, 26, had just left his job at L.L. Bean in Bangor and was heading home at around 10 a.m. when he hit a patch of slippery road as he was trying to exit Interstate 395 onto Route 202.

Standing on the side of the road after the accident, Arbo said he was still a little shaken by it. He said he would be heading straight home to pick up his studded snow tires and get them put on his car, which only had a small piece of bumper ripped off inthe minor crash.

“It’s life in Maine in the wintertime,” Arbo said.

The crash was one of many that kept police and rescue crews hustling on Monday morning.

Maine State Police responded to 44 snow-related accidents in Penobscot, Piscataquis, Washington and Hancock counties, all caused by the icy road conditions.

“We had 35 in Troop E and nine in Troop J,” a dispatcher for the Orono barracks said at about 4:15 p.m.

Troop E includes Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, while Troop J handles Washington and Hancock counties.

“I’ve had five myself,” state police Trooper Phil Pushard said at 10:30 a.m., just after leaving the scene of Arbo’s spinout. “We’re dealing with a jackknife in Newport right now, and we’re heading to a rollover in Clifton.”

Bangor police got its first accident call at about 5 a.m. and by 3:30 p.m. had handled a dozen minor crashes, Sgt. Paul Edwards said.

“Eleven were property damage accidents,” Edwards said. “There was one PI [personal injury accident] when their air bag went off.”

A Canadian tractor-trailer jackknifed on Route 9 in Township 22 around 8 a.m., according to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office. The truck lost traction and slid into a ditch, Deputy Luke Gross said. Then the trailer spun around, pushing the whole vehicle onto its side.

The accident sent the truck’s load of tires spilling onto the road, which was closed until about 3 p.m., when it was opened to one lane of traffic. The road was cleared by 4 p.m.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection came to the scene because the accident caused a diesel fuel leak. The truck’s driver, Clarence Brushette, 51, of Musquodoboit, Nova Scotia, was uninjured.

In Blue Hill, a ‘99 Volvo driven by Tabatha Smith, 21, of Deer Isle, struck a utility pole on Mines Road. The pole came down beside Smith’s vehicle, and state police had to wait for the arrival of crews from Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. showed up before pulling her out of the wrecked car.

“She didn’t have any serious injuries, so she just stayed in the vehicle until Bangor Hydro arrived to make sure it was safe to get her out,” said Trooper Dan Ryan.

Smith was brought to Blue Hill Memorial Hospital where she was treated for injuries that were not life-threatening. Around noon, Bangor Hydro was still working to replace the utility pole.

In Ellsworth, a white 2000 Jeep driven by Anna Curtis, 17, of Lamoine careened off Buttermilk Road and struck a tree. Curtis and a passenger, Deborah Pickard, suffered minor facial injuries in the accident. Curtis had been driving too fast for the slick road conditions, according to an accident report.

Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office deputies also responded to accidents.

As emergency responders deal with slippery driving conditions throughout the state, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning.

Two separate vehicle crashes involving utility poles Monday morning knocked out power to 2,219 customers in Washington and Hancock counties, according to a Bangor Hydro news release.

A separate outage in Penobscot County, caused by a tree limb on a power line, caused seven to be without lights,the statement says. Bangor Hydro spokeswoman Susan Faloon said utility crews quickly replaced the broken poles and restored power.

Franklin, Oxford and Somerset counties were experiencing heavy snow and freezing rain, according to Mike Kistner of the National Weather Service in Gray.

Kistner said he expected coastal areas of the state to experience all rain.

A winter weather advisory also was issued for Penobscot, Aroostook, Hancock and Piscataquis counties, Paul Fitzsimmons of the National Weather Service in Caribou said.

He expected a mix of snow and sleet to continue throughout the morning, with southern areas of the counties changing over to rain by the afternoon, while sleet and freezing rain would continue into Monday night in northern sections.

Along the Maine Turnpike, speeds were reduced to 45 miles per hour between Gray and Augusta, according to a post on the turnpike’s Twitter feed.

Schools and businesses all over the state canceled or delayed classes. The list included Auburn School, Washington County Community College and RSU 9 in Farmington, among others.

Edwards and Pushard said motorists should use common sense whenever they are driving in the snow.

“Slow down and allow time to get where you need to be,” Edwards said.

“Slow down — it’s slippery,” the trooper said. “It’s dangerous as hell out there.”

BDN reporter Mario Moretto contributed to this report.

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