OLD TOWN, Maine — A Maine Department of Transportation plow truck driver — one of 350 out cleaning roadways during Saturday’s blizzard — could not see the road in front of him at one point and drove off the edge of Interstate 95.
“The driver kind of lost track of the road because of the whiteout conditions,” Ted Talbot, DOT spokesman said Monday. “It clearly was a visibility issue.”
The plow truck, driven by veteran driver Glen Herbert, who has worked for the DOT since 1992, tipped over on I-95 near exit 197, which connects to Route 43.
“There was very little damage,” Talbot said. “We have a dented cab, the fan clipped the radiator and we had to cut the tarp to remove the salt [from the back of the truck]. This vehicle will be back in service very soon.”
Reduced visibility also is being blamed for at least three collisions where drivers hit DOT plow trucks, he said.
“There was three or four incidents of us being rear-ended,” Talbot said. “It had less to do with road conditions and more to do with lack of visibility. Man, you just couldn’t see anything.”
All of the collisions were minor.
Flashing emergency highway advisory signs on I-95 told drivers to keep it to 40 mph, but most drivers on the highway were only hitting top speeds of about 30 mph during the blizzard, DOT drivers across the state reported.
Maine State Police troopers in Troop E, which includes Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, dealt with 49 vehicles off the road between when the snow started to fall Friday and ended Saturday, including the plow truck tipping over and one rear-ender, according to Talbot and the department’s website.
“Almost everybody” who works at the DOT cleaning roads was on duty this past weekend working to keep the state’s 8,300 miles of highways clear, he said.
“At the height of the storm, we had close to 350 plow trucks out,” Talbot said. “That is not our entire fleet. The County was not really affected by this.”
Other crews also were on standby to help in case there was a downed power line or tree, he said. Southern Maine saw record-high snow levels that exceeded 30 inches, the Bangor area tallied nearly 19 inches and in Caribou, only 5.5 inches of white stuff fell during Saturday’s snowstorm, according to the National Weather Service.
One roadway death associated with the heavy snowfall was recorded on Saturday morning when a Passadumkeag man hit a bunch of trees on Route 2 and went into the Penobscot River, but almost all of the other crashes were considered minor, officials said.
“People adhered to warnings to stay off the roads,” Talbot said.