Late-winter storm bearing down on Maine; up to 2 feet of snow expected

Posted March 12, 2014, at 9:07 a.m.
Last modified March 13, 2014, at 5:36 a.m.

GRAY, Maine — With the official start of spring eight days away, forecasters spent Wednesday morning preparing for one last brush with winter.

A winter storm expected to dump as much as 2 feet of snow in parts of Maine was bearing down on the state Wednesday, with precipitation starting in southern counties early in the day, according to the National Weather Service.

“There is some light rain around, but it hasn’t really started here at the [Gray] office,” forecaster Tom Hawley said.

“The main body will probably be toward noon, early afternoon,” he added.

Forecasters say the western mountains and northern Penobscot and southern Aroostook counties will see the brunt of the storm.

The Bethel, Rumford, Houlton, Patten and Baxter State Park areas are expected to see 18 to 24 inches of snow.

While the coast likely won’t get hit as hard — Portland is only expected to receive 4 inches — the combination of mixed precipitation and below-freezing temperatures overnight could make for slick roads.

“Any wet snow is going to freeze,” Hawley said.

Greater Bangor, Augusta and Waterville are expected to receive between 10 and 14 inches of powder.

The precipitation made for tricky driving conditions, keeping police and emergency medical personnel busy with dozens crashes and slideoffs throughout much of Maine.

By 6 p.m., more than half a foot of snow had fallen in parts of Cumberland and Oxford counties, with Somerset and Piscataquis county approaching that level, at about 5 inches, according to the weather service.

Aroostook and Penobscot counties had more than 3 inches, with more on the way.

The heavy, wet snow was believed to be the culprit behind power outages in Emera Maine’s and Central Maine Power’s service areas.

Shortly after 9 p.m., Emera Maine released a statement saying that more than 6,700 customers were without power — 17 in Hancock County, 481 in northern Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, and 6,257 in Penobscot County. The majority of those outages were in the Bangor area, the release said.

“The interruption was likely caused by the heavy, wet snow falling throughout much of Maine at this hour but that has yet to be fully determined,” spokesman Bob Potts said, adding that the company conducted a storm planning call Wednesday morning to ensure that all available resources were at the ready should the storm cause widespread outages.

Crews will remain on duty overnight to address outages as they arise, he said. Potts added that the continued snowfall may cause more outages into Thursday.

Meanwhile, Central Maine Power had about 1,500 customers without power, roughly half of them in Oxford County.

The storm is predicted to last into Thursday before tapering off.

Airport traffic at Bangor and Portland was expected to run smoothly Wednesday, and Bangor International Airport reported no delayed or canceled flights. However, BIA has canceled its 5:40 a.m. Thursday departure flight to Washington, D.C.

Only two scheduled Wednesday flights out of Portland have been canceled.

Bangor police also reported a parking ban is place for the city effective at 11 p.m. Wednesday through 6 a.m. Thursday for snow removal.

Violators are subject to being towed.

Bangor Daily News reporter Dawn Gagnon contributed to this report.