Portland gets record snowfall, but Gorham has deepest snow with 35.5 inches

Posted Feb. 09, 2013, at 5:58 a.m.
Last modified Feb. 10, 2013, at 7:57 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Portland has broken its snowfall record by more than 4 1/2 inches, and will see even more accumulate as the day progresses, according to the national weather service.

Portland Jetport was reporting 31.9 inches of snow as of 2 p.m. 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.

“The old record is gone and it’s still snowing,” Kistner said then.

At 2 p.m. Saturday, the snow was still falling, but was starting to dissipate, meteorologist Margaret Curtis said.

“It’s still snowing but not much,” she said. “We’re down to the point where we can’t tell if it’s snowing or blowing.”

The old record for Portland was 27.1 inches, set back in January 1979, was broken with 32 inches. Gorham with 35.5 inches tallied the state’s deepest snow at 2:34 p.m., according to information posted on the National Weather Service’s website.

Most Mainers have stayed home during one of the largest snow storms the state has seen in decades, but there have been 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.

Officials across the state are urging Mainers to stay off the roads due to dangerous near white-out driving conditions and to allow the cleanup process to proceed as quickly as possible.

“Let the plow trucks do their job,” Fitzgerald said Saturday morning. “Driving is still very challenging and we’re asking people to stay off the roads and stay safe.”

Portland officials estimate 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.

The Vacationland Inn in Brewer is offering a respite for snow plow drivers, but as of 5 p.m. Saturday, none had taken time off to get a free cup of coffee at the motel. Brad Hewey said that the offer had been conveyed through social media and is on the motel’s large digital sign on Wilson Street.

“We’d like them to be able to take a break, come in and sit down by our fireplace, warm up and get a cup of coffee,” said Hewey, whose parents manage the motel.

Two people have been sickened so far 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 is headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Gorham woke up to 31.4 inches of snow Saturday morning. Cumberland saw 20 inches, Kennebunk saw 23 inches and S. Windham saw 28 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Gray.

In Eastern Maine, Washington County was the hardest hit, with 18 inches tallied in East Machias as of Saturday morning. Most areas of Hancock County had received more than a foot of snow by afternoon with Surry topping the list at 18.7 inches as of 3 p.m. Deer Isle had 18 inches measured at 2:11 p.m. Southwest Harbor on Mount Desert Island had 14.5 inches at 3:08 p.m. Totals from Bar Harbor and Ellsworth weren’t available as of 5:30 p.m.

Bangor saw 18.4 inches, as of 2 p.m., and Aroostook County saw very little snow — with only 5.5 inches in Caribou, according to the meteorologist Dustin Gordan of the National Weather Service in Caribou. He said there was only about an inch of snow on the ground before the flakes began to fall.

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.

The state will experience wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour, and residents should expect high snow drifts.

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

Forecasters predicting 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, mostly in Cumberland, Waldo and Oxford counties, early Saturday morning. By about 4:30, that number was down to 319, most of them in Sagadahoc County. Bangor Hydro reported 3,373 outages, mostly in Hancock and Washington counties early Saturday. By about 4 p.m., that number of outages was down to 377, with the majority in Penobscot and Washington counties.

“Slick roads and diminished visibility are slowing their ability to safely repair damage caused by today’s blizzard,” Bangor Hydro spokeswoman Susan Faloon said in a statement issued at 10:30 a.m. “Damage is reported to be extensive and given these conditions it will take some time to make the repairs.”

There were no serious accidents reported by early Saturday morning, according to dispatchers for the Maine State Police and Penobscot Regional Communications Center, but crews were dealing with cars that slid off the road. The Maine Turnpike reported via its Twitter account multiple vehicles stuck in multiple locations and warned that police and turnpike crews may be unable to respond to stuck cars.

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.

There is a parking ban in downtown Bangor from 11 p.m. Saturday through 6 a.m. Sunday. Vehicles left on city streets during this period may be towed at the owner’s expense.

Portland and other communities also have parking bans in place and residents should check with the Bangor Daily News closing and cancellations website section or their local police department to find out details about their communities.

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

In Aroostook County, the storm is having a lesser impact than on the rest of the state. Much of the region is under a winter storm warning or a storm warning, with an estimated 1 to 10 inches of snow expected from Madawaska to Houlton. There were early estimates of 4 to 6 inches in New Limerick and 3 inches in Wallagrass in the St. John Valley. There were approximately a 4 inches a short distances away in Woodland.

White outs and blowing snow were expected to be a problem through the evening. Most events in the area were cancelled. Police said that there were little issues with accident or cars off the road, as motorists had heeded warnings to stay off the roads.

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