AUGUSTA — Cars skidded off roads into ditches and snowbanks as central Maine commuters dealt with rain, ice, fog and street flooding Monday.
About an inch and a quarter of rain fell by mid-afternoon Monday at Augusta State Airport, according to the National Weather Service.
Kennebec County Emergency Management Director Richard Beausoleil said nearly every municipality in the county was dealing with flooding, because of snow and ice blocking storm drains, though he said none had asked county officials for assistance. He said he had heard no advisories warning the Kennebec River could flood, but said that’s something officials were going to keep an eye on.
He noted once temperatures drop, things are going to freeze.
“Everything is going to turn to cement,” Beausoleil said. “If you don’t have to go out, don’t. But if you do, make preparations. If you have a set of those creepers (attachments for shoes to increase traction) dig them out and use them. Even if you’re just going out to get the mail. It’s better than having a broken hip.”
MaineGeneral Medical Center had a significant increase in the number of emergency room visits for slips and falls on the ice Monday, in both Augusta and Waterville, according to Diane Peterson, spokeswoman for MaineGeneral.
While temperatures reached the 40s on Monday, the forecast for Tuesday is for mostly sunny conditions with a high near 17 degrees and with lows Tuesday night getting down to 1. Wednesday looks mostly sunny, with a high, again, of 17 and a low of 6 Wednesday night.
Accidents on Monday in Augusta were reported on Winthrop Street, Old Belgrade Road near the new roundabout, Leighton Road, East Chestnut Street near Middle Street, Old Winthrop Road near Leighton Road and on Western Avenue at Sewall Street early in the day.
Augusta police asked people to limit travel unless absolutely necessary and, if that is not possible, to avoid hilly areas and low-lying areas where flooding is probable. Officials noted sand and salt was not adhering to road surfaces because of the heavy rain, and there were a number of areas where plugged storm drains flooding city streets.
There was standing water on many roads in and around Augusta.
In Winthrop, Bowdoin Street between Norcross Point and Green Street was closed after a frozen storm drain caused the street to flood in front of American Legion Post 40, next to the town beach. Capt. Ryan Frost, of Winthrop police, said the town’s public works crews were already busy clearing other roads so Winthrop Utilities District workers responded and cleared the road with a backhoe and pumped the water out of the road.
Winthrop police also assisted as Department of Transportation workers cleared snow from a drain to eliminate flooding on U.S. Route 202 at Annabessacook Lake, directed traffic around downed trees on Memorial Drive and responded, with public works, to street flooding at multiple other locations. Winthrop police covered two accidents, in which there were no injuries, in North Monmouth, Frost said, because Monmouth Police were tied up with other calls, including a fire on Rocky Point Road.
Frost said late Monday afternoon no roads were closed in Winthrop, but motorists should drive cautiously because there was a lot of water on the roads that will freeze when the temperatures drop.
About 375 Maine Department of Transportation trucks were out treating roads and clearing culverts that were inundated with debris and water flowing from melting snowbanks, said Ted Talbot, department spokesman.
At two Interstate 95 off ramps in Augusta — exits 109 and 113 — standing water had already begun to freeze Monday, Talbot said.
“Any standing water in the roadway or in people’s driveways will be very treacherous,” Talbot said. Contractors are standing by to handle calls if the situation worsens, he said.
In Belgrade, two accidents were reported on Route 27, one near Christy’s store and another in which a plow truck went into a ditch. Police called for extra salt to be applied to highway off ramps, some of which were covered with ice.
A propane truck also went off Route 27 about three miles south of Belgrade Lakes village Monday morning, but it couldn’t be determined if it was weather related. No propane leaked in the accident, authorities said. The accident tied up traffic for much of the morning.
Augusta schools, along with other area schools, were closed. Augusta Superintendent James Anastasio said Augusta has used two snow days so far this school year. Snow days, he noted, are always made up, and the make up days usually come at the end of the school year.
Anastasio said two pipes burst at the Cony High School campus as a result of extreme cold over the weekend, and there were several minor roof leaks at Hussey Elementary School.
Central Maine Power reported 2,576 outages statewide just before 4 p.m. Monday, and 926 outages in Kennebec County.
Beausoleil, the county emergency management director, said people should be prepared. He suggested having a generator capable of running a home’s furnace, or make arrangements to go somewhere that does, in case of residential power loss.
“Planning ahead makes it a lot better,” Beausoleil said of storms. “I had someone tell me they were all set, they had a box of Cheez-Its and a candle. That’s not going to work. A box of Cheez-Its is not an emergency plan.”
The Portland Press Herald contributed to this story.
Keith Edwards — firstname.lastname@example.org