It wasn’t so much deep snow that had heads spinning and cars slipping off the road in central Maine during Saturday’s monster blizzard, named Nemo.
It was high wind, gusting to 50 mph in places, reducing visibility on the roads, carving out big snow drifts and knocking out power to about 3,000 Central Maine Power Co. customers in the area at its height early Saturday.
CMP said Saturday afternoon it was on pace to have power restored to all customers tonight, and about 320 customers were in the dark at about 5 p.m.
State police spokesman Steve McCausland told the Associated Press that many vehicles, including several state police cruisers, got stuck in the deep snow.
Plow trucks also slid off the road in Kennebec and Somerset counties, snapping utility poles, but not resulting in injuries. Waterville police, state police and the sheriff’s office in Franklin County said there was plenty of slipping and sliding and a few fender-benders, but no serious motor vehicle accidents.
In Somerset County, someone was taken to a local hospital following a motor vehicle accident on East Madison Road at about noon. A car reportedly struck a utility pole, snapping it, but additional details were not available.
The Maine Pond Hockey Classic was postponed until today on China Lake. The Rangeley Lakes snowmobile parade to set a Guinness World Record fell short of expectations, a gas station ran out of gas in China and many stores and restaurants were closed.
Waterville Public Works Director Mark Turner said the city received about a foot of snow from the storm. He said visibility overnight was down to zero.
“This morning, it was roaring,” Turner said Saturday.
Turner said his crews have been sent out 19 times this winter for ice and snow storms.
Whiteout conditions forced Litchfield road crews to suspend plow operations for a while early Saturday.
“Without any shoulder snow banks for sightline guidance, during this ‘second wave’ of blinding snow, The crew can’t even find the center of the roads!” Town Manager Michael Byron reported via e-mail to selectmen.
Later, he said the crews were sent home to rest so they could return today.
The heavy snowfall poses problems for rescue crews as well.
In Augusta, a firefighter driving a plow truck headed out with each of the city’s rescue vehicles. Augusta Fire Chief Roger Audette that vehicle helps clear the driveway entrance.
“The real challenge is getting to people’s doors. We have to shovel out just to get into their houses,” he said.
In Skowhegan, Road Commissioner Greg Dore said crews brought out front-end loaders to keep street-side parking open to shoppers who ventured downtown. He said visibility for plow drivers was poor when crews hit the road at about 3:30 a.m. Saturday.
Dore said his department is halfway through the overtime budget and halfway through the salt budget for the winter.
Snowfall amounts dropped off quickly north of Augusta, where 23 inches were recorded Saturday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
Meteorologist Chris Legro said the blizzard that dropped a record 29 inches of snow in Portland brought about 9 inches to Skowhegan, 9.2 inches to Farmington and 3 inches to Jackman, in northern Somerset County.
The Weather Channel reported about 12.3 inches of snow fell in Waterville,
Wind gusts in New Portland, in Somerset County, were recorded at 59 mph, according to Legro. Gusts in Waterville were recorded at 49 mph, with a wind gust in Augusta marked at 47 mph. Legro said wind gusts were averaging 25-35 mph during the storm.
Blizzard warnings remained in effect until 4 p.m. Saturday in Waterville and Augusta.
In Skowhegan, some brave shoppers were on the street, but not many.
Jody Brown, of Madison, was not wearing a coat Saturday as she pushed her shopping cart from the Walmart store in Skowhegan through the snow to her car.
“I’m a New England girl — Nemo don’t scare me,” she said. “I’m getting some groceries; snow don’t scare me — I live in Maine. You just need to go slow to be safe.”
Alisha Servant and her 12-year-old son Elijah Baldinelli walked about a mile Saturday noontime to George’s Banana Stand, a market on North Avenue in Skowhegan, to get some groceries and wait out the storm.
“We came out to get dinner. I’m making chili,” said Servant, wrapped in layers of pink and blue, only her eyes showing. “I’m going home and watch the Weather Channel.”
“It’s cold, but it’s fun,” Elijah said.
In Rangeley on Saturday, where the Chamber of Commerce had planned a parade of snowmobiles that would top the Guinness World Record for the largest such parade, the weather did not cooperate.
“Mother Nature wasn’t exactly on our side for this one,” said chamber Executive Director Judith Morton. “We were up against that historic northeaster.”
Morton said she counted 157 sleds, but the good news was that the event, meant to draw riders from all over New England, raised about $7,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
The goal was to beat the record of 820 sleds over a 29-mile course set by a group in Roseau, Minn.
The forecast for today is sunny, with a high temperature of around 28 and wind chill values as low as minus-8.
Tonight is forecast to be mostly clear, with a low around 8, northwest wind around 5 mph, becoming calm in the evening, according to the National Weather Service.
An eariler version of this story incorrectly attributed a fatal accident in Vienna to this storm. That accident occured more than a year ago. The Associated Press reported the story in error.
Staff writer Betty Adams contributed to this report.
Doug Harlow — 612-2367