June 18, 2018
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Portland gets record 31.9 inches of snow in record weekend snowstorm

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

PORTLAND, Maine — Mainers woke to the sun shining on Sunday, a stark contrast to Saturday’s near whiteout conditions as two storms converged on New England and dumped historic levels of snow on Vacationland.

The storm contributed to the death of one man from Passadumkeag, who lost control of his vehicle early Saturday and crashed into trees and then into the Penobscot River, and a 19-car pileup on Friday.

Portland broke its snowfall record this weekend by more than 4½ inches, according to the National Weather Service.

The Portland Jetport reported 31.9 inches of snow as of 9:20 p.m. Saturday. The record was broken when the reading came in at 29.3 inches at 7:55 a.m., Mike Kistner of the National Weather Service told the BDN early Saturday.

Portland officials estimated it could take up to 48 hours once the snow and winds die down to clear the roads in Maine’s largest city, and it could take four or five days to clear all the sidewalks. The city will prioritize school areas.

“It’s difficult to drive down here,” meteorologist John Cannon, who works at the National Weather Service in Gray, said Sunday. “It’s difficult to see around corners and there is not a lot of room on the roads.”

High winds, which averaged 25 to 35 mph, were recorded all over Maine, meteorologist James Brown said Sunday.

South Thomaston saw winds as high as 62 mph, followed closely by Portland with 55-mph winds, South Bath with 54-mph winds and Augusta with 53-mph gusts.

With the high winds came high snowdrifts.

“We’re seeing snow drifts up to 10 feet already,” Meteorologist Mike Kistner of the National Weather Service in Gray said at noon Saturday.

The forecast shows mixed precipitation arriving on Monday, which could cause some roofs — already weighed down with snow — to collapse, he warned.

Hampden Fire Department responded to a partially collapsed roof at the United Methodist Church on Kennebec Road on Sunday.

The old snowfall record for Portland was 27.1 inches, set back in January 1979. Gorham, with 35.5 inches, tallied the state’s deepest snow at 2:34 p.m. Saturday, according to information posted on the National Weather Service’s website.

Bangor received 19.4 inches of snow over the course of the storm, East Machias and Rockland saw 24 inches and Caribou recorded a mere 5.5 inches, meteorologist Dustin Jordan said Sunday.

Bangor’s record snowfall for a 24-hour period came on Dec. 30, 1962, when 25.5 inches blanketed the Queen City, according to weather service meteorologist Corey Bogel.

Most Mainers stayed home during one of the largest snowstorms the state has seen in decades, but there were reports of minor injuries connected to the storm.

In Portland, a man was blown off a pier into Casco Bay early Saturday morning and had to be rescued by emergency crews, according to officials.

Two people were sickened by carbon monoxide poisoning related to the storm, according to Bruce Fitzgerald, deputy director for the Maine Emergency Management Agency.

One was a person who was stuck in their vehicle and another had a plugged heating vent at their house, Fitzgerald said.

“If people get stuck in their car, they should open a window to get fresh air,” Fitzgerald said. “They should also make sure to check their [outside home heating] vents. People have reported nausea from the fumes.”

Residents who use monitor heaters or other direct vent heating systems and even clothing dryers should make sure the snow has not stopped up their outside vents if they are in use, Fitzgerald said.

A plugged dryer vent could lead to fire, he said.

Carbon monoxide is “an odorless, colorless gas and sometimes people don’t recognize the symptoms until it’s too late,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s dangerous. We want people to be safe.”

The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Storm damage Down East was minimal, according to the emergency management directors for Washington and Hancock counties.

“Overall, I think we did well and came through without any major damages,” said Michael Hinerman, director of the emergency management agency for Washington County. “There was a lot of blowing and we have some pretty big snowdrifts.”

One of them was up against Hineman’s own garage door.

“I had to have someone come and remove it from in front of the door so I could get my truck out with the plow on it to plow my own driveway,” he said. “That hasn’t happened since 1983.”

Andrew Sankey, head of emergency management in Hancock County, said the biggest threat was the tidal storm surge that came with high tides at 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday.

“That turned out to be a nonevent,” he said Sunday morning. “The causeway to Little Deer Isle was flooded, which is not unusual. Area firefighters were able to clear the road of debris as soon as high tide passed and the bridge to the island remained open despite the high winds.”

One tree was down in Acadia National Park, Ranger Chris Wiebusch said Sunday morning. He said that Ocean Drive and Jordan Pond Road as well as the roads on Schoodic Peninsula had been plowed and were open. No damage had been reported due to the tidal surges, he said.

Southern Maine forecasters had predicted high sea levels with Saturday’s 9:55 a.m. high tide but only one area reported flooding, he said.

“The only flooding reported we had was down in York County,” Kistner said. “Long Sands Road in York was flooded and the jersey barriers moved, and Short Sands parking lot was flooded.

“Portland tides never reached flood,” he said. “They got up to 11.8 feet and 12 feet is the flood stage.”

Central Maine Power reported 9,815 outages at the height of the storm, mostly in Cumberland, Waldo and Oxford counties. Bangor Hydro Electric Co. reported 3,373 customers without power early Saturday, mostly in Hancock and Washington counties.

Bangor police Sgt. Jim Buckley said Sunday that the department only dealt with a few minor accidents, “mostly, plow truck running into plow truck.”

“Yesterday was surprising quiet,” the sergeant said. “People stayed indoors.”

The city has extended its longest citywide parking ban in response to a historic snowstorm.

In one of the collisions involving plow trucks, one private snow removal contractor backed out onto Stillwater Avenue and was hit by another, Buckley said.

Most flights in and out of Portland International Jetport on Saturday were canceled, and all but a few out of Bangor International Airport were canceled as well.

“This is a pretty significant storm,” Kistner said. “It will go down in the record books.”

BDN reporters Jen Lynds, Judy Harrison and Seth Koenig contributed to this story

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