Nearly an inch of rain combined with melting snow and ice created treacherous road conditions Monday that pressured road crews hurried to prevent conditions from worsening over night.
While Monday featured the warmest temperatures in more than a month in the Waterville area, temperatures are expected to plummet to as low as the single digits Monday night into Tuesday, creating dangerous icey patches on roads.
The winter meltdown Monday sent vehicles off the road or flooded them, with more than two dozen reports on police logs in central Maine Monday morning. About 10 accidents and reports of flooded cars were taken in Kennebec County, while at least five occurred in Franklin County.
In addition to a couple of flooded cars in Waterville, Somerset County had at least half dozen weather-related incidents Monday morning.
The heavy rain also contributed to power outages for more than 1,300 Central Maine Power customers statewide.
A Kingfield woman was killed in a New Vineyard traffic accident Monday, but it wasn’t clear if the slushy road caused the crash.
With the puddles of slushy water throughout the state expected to freeze overnight, local authorities and Gov. Paul LePage urged people to stay off the roads.
“This is both for your safety and the safety of highway crews working to clear the roads,” LePage said in a press release. “If you do need to travel, consider all roads ice-covered unless you have knowledge to the contrary.”
Temperatures reached the high 40s Monday, the first time since early December that the temperature rose above 32 degrees. The result was roughly eight to 10 inches of slushy water on some roads, including College Avenue, parts of Main Street, Western Avenue, High Street and Front Street in Waterville.
Because of weeks of snow buildup and sub-zero temperatures, the majority of the city’s 1,900 storm drains were blocked by ice and snow, preventing the water from draining off the roads, according to Mark Turner, director for Waterville Public Works.
“This is the worst thing that can happen on a day where the snowbanks are so icy and blocking the drains,” Turner said. “We’re working with the fire department and Waterville sewer district to free up the drains. Just about every street in the city had some water buildup on it.”
By Monday afternoon, public works crews had cleared up most of the storm drains in the affected areas, but Turner said some of the 1,900 storm drains may still be covered.
“We eradicated the bigger problems we had,” Turner said, adding that about 95 percent of the storm drains were blocked early Monday.
“We’re trying to deal with the slush and ice buildup on roads before the temperature drops tonight,” Turner said. “We’re scraping the roads and sanding as we need to.”
Crews had taken care of the most severely flooded areas by 3 p.m., Turner said, but as that happened, potholes emerged, including on parts of Main Street.
“It’s going to be a difficult year for potholes because of all the moisture and the freezing and thawing,” Turner said.
The same issues of flooding in low-lying areas occurred in Skowhegan, where Road Commissioner Greg Dore said his crews were working to clear snowbanks off the storm drains before the temperature drops Monday night. After sunset, crews will continue working on the roads, clearing them the forecasted overnight freeze, Dore said.
“We’ll come in and scrape the slush off the road, and salt and sand everything,” Dore said. “Hopefully that will keep it from sticking to the road and we’ll come back out on Tuesday and clean up the aftermath.”
The weather conditions accounted for power outages for more 680 Central Maine Power customers in Kennebec County, just a couple weeks after an ice storm knocked out power for 123,000 CMP customers.
The ice storm, which covered large swaths of the state in a thick layer of ice, was followed by snowstorms that dropped more than two feet of snow in the Waterville area.
Monday was the first time any of that accumulated snow and ice had significant time to melt.
Waterville police dealt with several weather-related calls Monday morning, including two cars were also flooded on Front Street in a large puddle, according to Sgt. Brian Gardiner.
While roads were flooded, some parking lots and residential driveways generally remained covered in a sheet of ice.
In Thorndike, a Thompson’s Oil delivery truck tipped over, leaving a slippery driveway, according to a company spokeswoman. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection arrived at 9:30 a.m. for precautionary reasons, but Maine DEP Director of Communications Jessamine Logan said that nothing had spilled from the truck. The site of the accident, Unity Road, remained close at 4:30 p.m.
In Belgrade, a propane truck rolled over on Route 27, about a mile north of the intersetion of Route 135. It wasn’t known if the weather caused the accident, which delayed traffic on the road for several hours. No propane was spilled in the crash.
The higher temperatures and heavy thaw that accompanied it brought issues to homeowners and businesses, as melting snow and ice leaked through roofs and into basements.
Jim Goodwin, owner of Goodwin’s Unlimited in Benton, does snow removal work for nearly 200 residents in the Waterville area and spent the day clearing roofs of ice dams that were pushing melting water under shingles.
“Today people started panicking a little bit as the snow started to melt on their roofs,” Goodwin said. “It’s important that you don’t let a lot of snow pile up there or else it could melt into your house, ruining walls and your roof.”
By Monday afternoon, rainfall totals in Waterville had reached between a half-inch and an inch, according to James Brown, a National Weather Service meteorologist. That’s well above the tenth-of-an-inch total that is average for an early January day, he said.
The heavy rainfall, combined with the first day temperatures were above freezing since Dec. 8, made for perfect flooding conditions, according to Tom Hawley, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.
Temperatures on Tuesday will stay cool, with a high in the mid-teens before Tuesday night drops back down to sub-zero temperatures.