Washington, Hancock counties affected by storm reported to be strongest in 21 years

Posted March 26, 2014, at 10:08 a.m.
Last modified March 26, 2014, at 6:33 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — A winter storm expected to dump more than a foot of snow on Washington and Hancock counties churned its way up the coast on Wednesday.

The National Weather Service’s Caribou office projected 10-18 inches of snow in Washington and Hancock counties, where blizzard warnings were in effect throughout the day.

Storm conditions were harsh by early afternoon with falling snow and high winds. North winds were blowing 24 mph with gusts up to 39 mph in Washington County coastal communities, according to the National Weather Service. The combination limited visibility to a half-mile, the National Weather Service reported.

The storm pounded offshore waters. A weather data buoy 20 miles southeast of Jonesport clocked winds at 58 knots with gusts to 103 knots and registered 15-foot seas.

In Ellsworth, high winds blew a shed roof over an air conditioning unit into a parked car at a gas station on Wednesday afternoon. The sheet metal roof and 2-by-4 supports were ripped off the side of the On The Run store on Route 3 and sailed over the store and nearby gas pump canopy before falling back to the ground and striking the windshield of a Saturn sport utility vehicle. No one was in the vehicle at the time but the impact shattered the vehicle’s windshield.

A police cruiser in Bar Harbor also was damaged Wednesday when a tree came down on top of it, according to area dispatchers. Lt. James Pinkham of the Bar Harbor Police Department was outside the vehicle on Eden Street helping to direct traffic around another tree that had blown down into the road when the second tree fell on the the police car.

Pinkham was uninjured but the cruiser was significantly damaged, dispatchers said.

In Machias, blizzard conditions spawned brief whiteout spells. The wind blew fiercely and sounded a dull roar at times, and utility lines shook and danced. The driving wind left bare ground in some places and began to pile up snow in drifts in others, and tracks in snow could be covered again in a mere 20 minutes.

State police and Washington County emergency dispatchers reported no immediate problems by early afternoon, other than a few minor traffic accidents and a tree falling across power lines. Schools were closed as well as government offices and many businesses.

Many businesses, schools and offices in Hancock County also were closed or closed early on Wednesday because of the storm.

On social media, reports circulated that the storm, with air pressure as low as 962 millibars, was the strongest since the 1993 superstorm, in which air pressure measured as low as 960 millibars.

Ocean Drive, the section of the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park that normally is open throughout the winter, was closed Wednesday because of the storm. The road provides access to Sand Beach and Thunder Hole, which frequently draw visitors in the winter when foul weather churns up heavy surf along the shore.

Greater Bangor was expected to see 4-6 inches, southern Aroostook County 4-8 inches and 1-3 inches in northern Aroostook County, and high winds were likely to limit visibility.

BDN reporters Tim Cox and Bill Trotter contributed to this report.