Heavy wind and rain Thursday knocked out power to thousands of homes and businesses in central Maine while the unseasonably warm temperature melted enough ice to force the closing of Route 4 in Madrid.
The weather also forced cancellation of a popular winter carnival scheduled for Saturday in Waterville, where the high was 57, according to the National Weather Service.
Another winter carnival Saturday in Skowhegan will go on as scheduled, but without at least one event.
An ice jam in Small’s Falls Stream threatened to flood Route 4 and damage a bridge connecting Madrid and Rangeley, according to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department.
The bridge was closed about 3 p.m. and traffic was detoured around the bridge, near the Smalls’ Falls rest stop in Madrid.
The National Weather Service reported that the ice jam could lead to flooding farther along the Sandy River in Farmington. The service, in a report sent to the sheriff’s department, said it’s not known how long the jam will remain.
Central Maine Power Co. reported more than 40,000 customers were without power by midday as crews worked to remove downed trees and branches and restore electricity.
In Kennebec County, 6,996 power outages were reported; in Waldo, 6,245; Knox, 5,036; Somerset, 1,385; and in Franklin, 117.
The Augusta campus of MaineGeneral Medical Center lost power for about 45 minutes.
“The generators took over immediately and there was minor impact,” said hospital spokeswoman Diane Peterson. “CMP is very good about getting us back up quickly.”
About 22,000 customers were without power statewide in Central Maine Power’s coverage area as of about 4:30 p.m. Thursday from a peak of about 44,000, CMP said in a release.
CMP spokesman John Carroll said the storm created wind gusts over 50 mph.
“We have been able to make good progress today, and we hope that will continue well into the evening,” Carroll said late Thursday afternoon. “We expect to have many of the remaining customers back on by late tonight, but some customers won’t get their service restored until sometime (today).”
Rain, warm temperatures and lack of snow forced organizers to cancel the annual winter carnival scheduled for Saturday at Quarry Road Recreation Area in Waterville.
This is the second year the event has been canceled because of weather and poor conditions.
Waterville Parks and Recreation Director Matt Skehan said he stopped at the recreation area before coming into the office Thursday morning and saw what he expected to see after a night of heavy rain and warm temperatures.
“We lost just about everything,” he said. “There was very little snow left anywhere — on the trails, fields, the sledding hill. It’s pretty bare now.”
Making snow with the recreation area’s new snow making equipment was out of the question because the ground was too soft and the piles of snow the equipment makes must be moved around, he said.
In Skowhegan, organizers of the 21st annual Lake George Regional Park Winter Carnival scheduled for Saturday canceled the Sled Box Derby Race.
The ice fishing derby, chili cook-off and other events remained on the schedule, according to park director Jeff McCabe.
“We are very disappointed, but after inspection of Sled Box Derby hill this morning we are worried about safety,” McCabe said Thursday in a release. “We do not have enough snow and do not want to hold the event on ice.”
Parking areas will be sanded, but McCabe asked visitors to be prepared Saturday for icy conditions elsewhere in the park.
The heavy wind and rain-slicked ice led to several smelt-fishing shacks on the Kennebec River — reports were from Richmond and between Randolph and Gardiner — being blown from their spots and racing upriver on the ice.
By early afternoon Thursday, the sun was out in Waterville and a rainbow arched across the sky over the Kennebec.
“The worst of the rain and wind is behind us,” said Margaret Curtis, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray.
Curtis said around 2 p.m. that temperatures in central Maine were expected to continue dropping throughout the evening Thursday, and wind would remain gusty for a couple of hours and then start to die off.
“Overnight, it’s going to keep dropping, bottoming out near 20 degrees early (Friday) morning and not warming up much beyond that,” she said.
Colder air would move in and temperatures are expected to dip into the single digits Friday night, according to Curtis.
The weekend will be cold in central Maine, with accumulation of a couple of inches of snow expected Sunday night into Monday, she said. Temperatures are expected to be around 30 on Sunday and in the upper 20s on Monday, according to Curtis. She said the temperature in Portland Thursday reached a high of 54, tying a record of 25 years ago.
Staff writer Doug Harlow contributed to this report.