Only a few inches of snow had fallen by late afternoon on Thursday, but David Grover, a plow driver for the city of Gardiner, had already been out for several hours, clearing snow off the roads and dropping sand on hills.
“So far this has been pretty easy to keep up with,” Grover, 48, said while plowing Old Brunswick Avenue in Gardiner at around 4:30 p.m. “But they’re reporting later on this evening we’re going to get an inch to two inches an hour. When it’s like that you’re just, you’re just going. You really can’t keep up.”
The Augusta area was expected to get eight to 10 inches of snow by Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service.
The storm prompted many area schools to get out early and state government offices in Kennebec, Androscoggin, York and Cumberland counties closed at noon, and events to be canceled or postponed.
Although it wasn’t icy as some storms earlier this winter, the fast-falling snow made travel difficult.
One of the more serious accidents in the area sent one person was taken to the hospital by ambulance after a tractor-trailer and a car collideded Thursday afternoon on U.S. Route 202 in Winthrop.
Grover, in his 16th year plowing for the city of Gardiner, said he “can’t remember a winter that’s acted like this. We’ll move a lot of snow and then no snow and plenty of cold and ice.”
The icy weather this winter, which has depleted many municipalities’ sand and salt supplies, made plowing difficult during the storms, Grover said.
“You treat it and you scrape it, and you treat it and you scrape it,” he said. “Ice is a nightmare. I’d much rather get a foot of snow than a half inch of ice.”
The city had called a parking ban, effective at 6 p.m. and while plowing a little before that Thursday, Grover didn’t have to deal with vehicles parked on the side of the road, but he said that can be a major headache for plowers.
He said most people are good about moving their cars during a snow ban, and during the day he’ll honk his horn if he passes a parked vehicle blocking the plowing lane.
“And by the time I come back through, they’ll usually come out and move,” Grover said.
Another challenge, he said, can be avoiding mailboxes, especially ones built at the edge of the road.
“I hit ‘em. Everybody does,” Grover said, frankly. “You try to be careful.”
He recalled a time he hit a mailbox that turned out to be a housewarming gift for the homeowner.
“I clobbered it one winter,” Grover said, pointing to the mailbox. “As you can see, there are no streetlights. A black mailbox at night is kind of hard to see, but it was able to be fixed.”
The snowfall picked up as the evening progressed, but Grover said he still prefers it to the icy storms of earlier this winter.
In the Winthrop accident, the tractor-trailer ended up jackknifed across the road, blocking traffic in both directions.
The truck, which was empty, came to rest atop a guardrail that rescuers had to cut. Once they did that, they drained the diesel fuel before the vehicle was hauled away by a heavy-duty tow truck.
A section of the road between Main Street and Winthrop Veterinary Hospital was closed to traffic as emergency responders tended to the injured and wreckers began to haul away the vehicles.
Winthrop police, firefighters and ambulance personnel responded to the accident.
Personnel at the scene said the injured person, one of four people who had been in the two-door red car, was taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta. The others were evaluated at the scene and did not go to the hospital by ambulance. No other details were available Thursday night.
Thursday’s storm also caused some workplaces and schools to close early or cancel events.
The Augusta City Council meeting scheduled for Thursday was canceled and city offices in Augusta and Gardiner closed early.
A meeting to discuss the future of the Colonial Theater in downtown Augusta was postponed until next Thursday.
Earlier in the day, Cony High School students were released from school at 10:45 a.m. and elementary school students were sent home an hour later.
All state offices in Kennebec, Androscoggin, Cumberland and York counties closed at noon, and the Augusta and Bangor campuses of the University of Maine at Augusta closed at 1 p.m., according to the university website.
Staff Writer Betty Adams contributed to this report.