CARIBOU, Maine — A Thanksgiving nor’easter threw a major curveball into holiday travel plans Wednesday, hampering airplane traffic along the Interstate 95 corridor.
“It’s really poor timing,” Robbie Beaton, superintendent of operations at BIA, said.
Snow started falling in southern portions of the state early Wednesday afternoon. Nearly the entire state is under a winter storm warning, according to the National Weather service.
The heaviest accumulations are expected Wednesday evening, with snow expected to wind down Thanksgiving morning.
On Wednesday afternoon, the weather service was predicting accumulations of 8 to 14 inches of heavy, wet snow that could fall at rates of 1 to 3 inches per hour. That was up from the 6 to 12 inches forecast for this storm earlier this week.
The snowfall was expected to result in reduced visibility for motorists, the weather service noted.
The combination of heavy snow and wind gusts of up to 40 mph already was causing power outages by late afternoon.
As of 7:45 p.m., Central Maine Power was dealing with more than 42,000 outages, the bulk of them in York, Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties. The number of customers without power was rising rapidly, from roughly 6,400 shortly after 4 p.m. to more than 12,000 at 5 p.m.
Emera Maine, which serves eastern and northern Maine, had far fewer customers out at under 70 as of 5 p.m.; however, that likely was because the snow arrived later in that region. An updated total was not available as of early Wednesday evening.
With the snow arrived the motor vehicle accidents. The crashes and rollovers kept state, county and local police busy throughout the morning and afternoon and the situation wasn’t expected to improve until the storm blew over.
As of late afternoon, BIA had eight flights that were canceled — four arrivals and four departures — and the airport earlier in the day handled six diverted flights — one from Canada and five from Europe — according to Beaton.
Beaton said it’s not uncommon for flights to be diverted to BIA because of weather conditions at other major airports on the East Coast, as Bangor is the first major airport foreign flights encounter on the Eastern Seaboard.
“Planes coming over might get delayed in getting in so they may stop here and grab fuel,” Beaton said.
“We had a great morning push” in terms of traffic going out of the airport, Portland Jetport director Paul Bradbury said, but the storm has impacted outbound flights to New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, where numerous cancellations and delays were reported.
“The issues for us are more at our connecting hubs,” Bradbury said. “Our crews are out and doing the things they do very well.”
Beaton said BIA’s snow crews were prepared and ready to go to work early Wednesday afternoon.
Bradbury doesn’t anticipate flights from Portland to hubs such as Chicago, Atlanta and Detroit to be affected by the storm.
Buses and trains in the state were running on schedule throughout the day.
State offices closed for the day at 1 p.m. because of the weather, according to a statement from Gov. Paul LePage’s office.
LePage urged people to drive safely, and the speed limit on Interstate 295 in the Portland area, where snow began falling early Wednesday afternoon, was reduced to 40 mph.
The Snow and Ice Management Association also offered safety tips for Black Friday shoppers, encouraging people to wear extra layers and use caution when carrying goods to vehicles.
Crews from Central Maine Power and Emera Maine are prepared to deal with potential power outages, and safety precautions must be taken if using generators.
Generators should be kept outdoors, at least 15 feet from doors or windows, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Devices such as dryers and ovens should not be used to heat homes.
If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, leave the house and call 911 and seek medical attention.
Bangor Daily News writer Dawn Gagnon contributed to this report.