PORTLAND, Maine — Portland officials said Monday that the impending blizzard could be severe enough to keep even police and snowplow drivers off the roads, adding that they’re calling for a rare 32-hour parking ban in Maine’s largest city.
Portland Fire Chief Jerome LaMoria, Police Chief Michael Sauschuck and Public Services Director Michael Bobinsky held a news conference Monday afternoon at City Hall to warn area residents about the near-zero visibility expected during the long-lasting snowstorm due to roll through southern Maine just after 8 p.m.
On Tuesday, City Hall will be closed, all outgoing flights have been canceled at Portland International Jetport and public METRO buses will not be running, LaMoria said.
The fire chief said that by 7 a.m. Tuesday, the city is forecast to have 6 inches of snow on the ground, before the heaviest of the storm is expected to hit between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. He also warned area residents to prepare for scattered power outages likely to be caused by high winds.
Bobinsky said his road-clearing crews would be prioritizing “major arterials,” such as Congress Street, Brighton Avenue, Washington Avenue and Forest Avenue, with local side streets being plowed less vigilantly.
He also said plow operators may have to stop if visibility drops to zero, which some forecasters expect, although Bobinsky said he anticipated those stops to temporary.
Sauschuck added that police may resort to responding to emergency service calls only — ones in which residents are in danger or crimes are in progress — during the worst of the storm.
“What we would really prefer is that residents stay home,” the police chief said. “They should realize that once they leave home, they’re part of the problem — part of the hazard.”
Portland is forecast to receive 18-24 inches of snow.
The city has announced a parking ban from 10 p.m. Monday until 6 a.m. Wednesday. Bobinsky said the last time the city had a parking ban that long was in February 2013, when the city was hit with a record 30-plus inches in a storm.
Bobinsky said solid waste pickup routes on Tuesday and Wednesday — in the North Deering and Munjoy Hill neighborhoods — have been canceled and will resume next week.
“I think it’s going to be a doozy, and I’m not looking forward to it,” said one Portland resident, David Caron, who was filling two five-gallon buckets at the Deering Oaks sand pile Monday afternoon. “I’m a big skier, so I like that it’s happening up [in the mountains], but not that it’s happening here.”
Caron said he was preparing by making sure his snowblower works and stocking up on sand and gas.
Another Portlander picking up sand there, Carl Harmon, was less concerned about the looming blizzard.
“What’s the big deal?,” he shrugged. “It’s Maine. That’s the way I look at it. The news people make it out like we’ve never had a blizzard before.”