January 24, 2019
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Flights canceled, plows readied, shoppers hit stores before blizzard

BANGOR, Maine — As Maine braced for a major snowstorm expected to include blizzard conditions late Monday through early Wednesday, the state’s airports canceled flights, plow crews prepared for difficult road conditions, and shoppers stocked up before hunkering down.

The National Weather Service put much of the state under a blizzard warning, including all coastal counties as well as Androscoggin, Kennebec and southern Penobscot counties. Those areas are expected to get 18 to 24 inches of snow. Blizzard warnings are expected to remain in effect until Wednesday morning.

A winter storm warning was issued for the remainder of the state.

Before the first flake fell, Bangor International Airport on Monday canceled all flights for the day, except Allegiant Air’s 6:15 p.m. departure to St. Petersburg, Florida, and announced all Tuesday flights were canceled as well.

Portland International Jetport also reported cancellations Monday and canceled all of Tuesday’s departures. About eight departures out of Portland scheduled for Monday were canceled, along with 14 arriving flights out of major hubs such as Atlanta, Detroit and Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, crews with the Bangor Public Works Department rushed to mount plows and place tire chains on the city’s 40 snow-removal vehicles and sand trucks.

Stephen Smith, assistant director of the department, said he anticipated crews would begin plowing at 4 a.m. Tuesday or sooner, depending on when the snowfall started, with 1 to 2 inches per hour predicted.

“If you don’t have to be out, please don’t be,” he said. “Those big trucks move around slow, and they take a lot room, and when visibility is poor and the wind is blowing, it makes it even worse.”

Smith said public works likely will dispense with its normal shift rotation to ensure all 50 public works employees are working simultaneously to keep Bangor’s 300 lane miles of roadway clear.

Meanwhile, public works drivers said they were hoping for “light, fluffy” snow that is easier to move than wet snow.

They said they prepare for blizzards by getting plenty of rest beforehand and making sure they have everything they need at the start of their shifts, such as food, coffee, warm clothes, credit cards and cash.

“You’re going to be living out here,” said driver Rick Legasse, who anticipated his shift will last well into Tuesday evening.

As Bangor public works and emergency personnel braced for the blizzard, other city workers prepared for a day off.

City officials announced Monday afternoon that all non-emergency offices will be closed Tuesday because of the weather predictions.

Services that will be affected include trash collection, which will run one day late for the remainder of the week.

“Given the predicted nature of the storm, it may be difficult at times to keep main arteries and roadways clear. We ask that you limit unnecessary travel. If you must travel, please use caution,” a statement from City Hall said.

The Coast Guard urged mariners to be prepared, and crews are ready for the worst, according to a statement.

Wind gusts on the water could reach up to 80 mph, potentially making this an extremely dangerous storm to be on the ocean.

The American Red Cross also offered storm tips, including having plenty of food, water and flashlights, making sure all mobile devices are fully charged, bringing pets indoors and not using generators inside homes or other enclosed areas.

Emera Maine reported its storm response team was ready with fueled-up trucks, snow sleds and ATVs, and employees were on standby. Customers were asked to make sure all driveways and side roads are plowed so utility crews can more easily make restoration efforts.

A list of statewide parking bans and cancellations can be found at bangordailynews.com.

Paradis Family Shop ‘n Save in Brewer was jumping Monday as shoppers filled their carts and baskets with provisions.

Store manager Jackie Pelletier said that the store had seen a surge in sales since Sunday, when weather forecasters began predicting that parts of Maine could see as much as 2 feet of snow from late Monday through early Wednesday.

“Milk and eggs and meats — everything,” Pelletier said. “And a lot of liquor, for some reason.”

While Monday mornings and afternoons aren’t usually very busy, this day was different because of the storm.

“It’s been steady. It’s been great,” she said. “It’s double for sure.”

Among the Paradis customers who were at the store early Monday afternoon was Robin Rennebu of Eddington, who said she was there to pick up grocery items that didn’t need to be refrigerated or that could be kept outside in the event of a power outage.

“My grandson‘s coming over,” she said, adding that she had chosen the items she did “so he doesn’t have to open the refrigerator 421 times if the power goes off.”

Rennebu was worried about other storm essentials, such as water and batteries.

“We usually have all that,” she said, adding that she had public water and that it would flow despite an outage.

The scene at Hannaford across the Penobscot River in Hampden was similar.

“Some of the big things we see a major uptick in is water and batteries, which are not always on a normal shopping list. Also the necessities, like milk and bread,” Edwards manager Laura Blake said.

Blake said that like some others, her store began ordering extra stock a few days ago, when early reports of a possible blizzard began circulating. The store also arranged to have extra staff on hand to keep things running smoothly for customers.

“We do our best to watch weather reports and add products that we can get on the deliveries we have coming in,” she said. “We also look at adding staff. We do our best to work hard to keep serving our customers because we do stay open through all of this.”

Carrie Huntley, manager of the Circle K convenience store at 395 Main St. in Bangor, said that while she hadn’t noticed a run on any particular items, an employee had stocked up on fuel, flashlights and batteries.

Faith Soule, who works at R&K Variety on Main Road North in Hampden, also had not seen a storm-related spike in sales but noted an increase in fuel purchases from customers who will be using snowblowers and generators later this week.

BDN writers Evan Belanger and Dawn Gagnon contributed to this report.


Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified a grocery store in Hampden. The store is Hannaford.

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