Lonely commutes made for few accidents on central Maine roads covered by the biggest snowstorm so far this season Thursday.
Gov. Paul LePage closed state offices because of the storm, while schools are closed for vacation.
“Any time the school’s not open or the state’s not open,” said Hallowell Police Chief Eric Nason. “It reduces the traffic and reduces the problems we have on the roads.” He said there were no accidents in the city in the morning, just stuck cars.
Early in the day, sheriff’s offices in Franklin, Kennebec and Somerset counties reported a handful of weather-related car accidents, none with injuries.
Kennebec County Sheriff’s Cpl. G.J. Neagle said the department responded to two weather-related accidents by 5:30 p.m. with no injuries reported. He attributed the lack of accidents to a low volume of traffic and slow driving.
A tractor-trailer rolled over on Route 27 in Farmington around 6 p.m., but few details were available by press time. No injuries were reported in that accident.
Earlier in the afternoon, a dispatcher with the Maine State Police’s capital-area troop said most of the accident’s she heard about were minor, involving cars sliding off roads. But she said the number of accidents picked up into the afternoon and troopers were busy responding to them.
In Augusta, Steve Leach, a fire department battalion chief, said by afternoon the department had been called to just one accident — a woman who drove her car into a ditch off of exit 109A, between Interstate 95 and Western Avenue. Leach said she was taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center for minor injuries.
Around the same time, Maine State Police responded to an accident near exit 112A. On the southbound side of the interstate around 10:30 a.m., a tractor-trailer could be seen with the tractor on the road and the trailer in a ditch.
Power in central Maine wasn’t much affected by the storm during the day. By 5:55 p.m., Central Maine Power reported 125 outages in Kennebec and Franklin counties combined, with all but one of those in Rangeley and Hallowell. Sagadahoc County had more than 1,400 customers without power shortly before 6.
“I think the snow stayed dry, and that made a big difference,” said CMP spokesman John Carroll, adding that lower-than-forecast wind speeds, frozen ground and the company’s limb-trimming efforts in recent years kept trees and limbs away from most utility lines.
Michael Cempa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said Thursday afternoon that the projected totals were tracking lower than expected, with Kennebec, Somerset and Franklin counties expected to get 8-14 inches by the time the storm ended overnight.
Cempa said going into the evening, the farther north, the greater the potential for accumulation, because snow was predicted to last longer into the night, so places like Skowhegan should end up with totals on the high end of the regional prediction.
As of 3 p.m., Cempa said Augusta had 6 inches of snow, while some locations near the western Maine-New Hampshire border had a foot.
“The heavier snow was concentrated into a smaller area,” he said. “Those were the lucky or unlucky ones, depending on how you view the snow.”
Many government offices in central Maine shut down because of the weather.
Waterville and Richmond municipal offices closed early Thursday, while offices in Farmington, Skowhegan, Litchfield, Manchester, Windsor, Wayne, Readfield, Jay, Winslow and Phillips all were also closed, or closed early.
John Guimond, manager of the Augusta State Airport, said all three Thursday flights from Augusta to Boston were canceled and today’s flights will likely be delayed. He said crews worked Thursday to get runways ready for those flights. At the Portland International Jetport, about a third of flights were canceled and many others were delayed, according to marketing manager Gregory Hughes.
As of Thursday, at 2 a.m., the Maine Turnpike Authority announced the speed limit on the road, which goes from Kittery to Augusta, was reduced to 45 mph until further notice because of the heavy snow. Authority spokesman Dan Morin said he expects the limit to remain low into the night.
While some area businesses like Lisa’s Legit Burritos in Gardiner closed, others saw some foot traffic in spite of or because of the snow.
DK Nail Salon in Waterville was running a special on manicures and pedicures on Thursday after owner Brandy Pham said most of her appointments canceled because of the storm.
“I think the roads were bad, and people were scared to drive,” she said. “We haven’t been very busy.”
But special prices, which included a $25 mani/pedi, still drew a smattering of customers in the early afternoon.
Caitlin Blair, 13, and Madison Klowes, 13, were getting manicures because they said they had nothing to do between school being closed for the holidays and the snow outside.
And if you’re a little older, why not warm up with an early trip to your local watering hole?
“We have a bar full of drinkers — regulars,” said Jessica Despres, bar manager at the Liberal Cup, a Hallowell pub, who said the bar was busier than usual around 5 p.m. “We’re definitely slower for dining, but as for the bar, it’s kind of like a club.”
Morning Sentinel staff writers Kaitlin Schroeder and Rachel Ohm, along with Portland Press Herald staff writer Matt Byrne, contributed to this report.
Michael Shepherd — 621-5632