Todd Anderson and his family were cleaning up with chain saws and a small bucket loader Thursday afternoon after a large pine tree branch came crashing onto the roof of their Skowhegan home the previous night.
Part of the roof of the home on U.S. Route 201 just south of downtown Skowhegan was crushed, leaving the flashing and molding on the outside of the house hanging. Anderson estimates damages will cost about $3,000.
“About quarter of nine last night we heard some cracking — I was watching TV — and the house started shaking. A bang, a lot of noise — and down it came,” Anderson said. “The whole side of the roof is broken from the chimney down to the eave. You can see some of the roofing is broken off. It was from the weight of the snow. Snow and wind.”
That heavy snow and wind pummeled the region Wednesday and Thursday, concentrating the brunt of its force on Somerset County with waist-high snow drifts and more than 1,000 power outages.
Nearly 11,000 Maine homes were without power at some point Wednesday night and Thursday. Utility companies worked throughout Thursday to restore power to rural areas with difficult terrain. By 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the statewide total was at 623 outages, with 113 of those in Somerset County.
Central Maine Power spokeswoman Gail Rice said the company expected to restore power to all its customers in Somerset County by later Thursday.
“It’s been very tough getting to some of the more remote roads,” Rice said Thursday morning, adding that most of the power outages were caused by downed tree limbs. “Some reports from our workers say that some roads need to get plowed first.”
Fairfield reported about 15 inches of fresh snow, while Rome had about 10.5 inches, according to the National Weather Service. Areas north of Waterville and Augusta received closer to a foot of snow and ice, while Sugarloaf Resort in Carrabassett Valley reported more than a foot of fresh snow Thursday morning. Nearly two feet of snow was reported in Rangeley, in northern Franklin County.
In parts Somerset County, residents reported 16 inches to two feet of snow by midday Thursday. Abby Shahn of Solon said she went outside with a ruler and measured 20 inches of new snow, while Scott Mongeon of Brighton Plantation said he had about 24 inches on his front stairs.
Jarrod Pooler of Skowhegan said his home was without power for 15 hours — he had no heat, no power and his phones were dead.
“Joys of Maine living,” he quipped.
With the official start of spring only a week away, the late winter storm also caused school cancellations and several accidents. By early afternoon Thursday, busy U.S. Route 201 south of Skowhegan was snow covered and hard packed, reducing motor vehicle traffic to about 30 mph. Wind gusts continued to blow snow across the highway, adding to the poor driving conditions.
Some residents on social media reported waist-deep snow drifts and new snow up to their knees.
Sue Nguyen, owner of Suzie Nails on Madison Avenue in downtown Skowhegan, was outside shoveling her sidewalk Thursday afternoon after recently returning to Maine from her native country, Vietnam.
She said she didn’t mind the cold and snow.
“The weather was so warm — every day sunshine,” she said. “I was there 30 days and it was never raining or anything — but oh, my God — it’s so nice, the snow is so white. I like it. I don’t mind it.”
More than two dozen accidents were reported in police activity logs in Waterville and Somerset County during the snowstorm, but none was believed to involve serious injury. By late evening Wednesday into Thursday, dispatchers got another three dozen calls for down trees and power lines.
After several early closings and early releases on Wednesday, many central Maine area schools and municipal offices were closed Thursday because of the storm, including Augusta and Waterville schools. All courts in Kennebec and Somerset counties were closed for the day. Maine state offices opened at 10 a.m., as did the Maine State Legislature. However, public hearings and work sessions were canceled.
Fairfield’s Town Council meeting, which was scheduled for Wednesday night, was rescheduled for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. A meeting of the Somerset County Economic Development Corp. was also postponed.
The snowfall won’t deter season-opening plans for ice cream company Giffords, which is based in Skowhegan and has its five seasonal stores, which all open Friday.
“We’ve never had to postpone an opening,” said Carol Goldsmith, operations manager for Giffords’ five ice cream stands for the last 27 years. “We’re just glad the storm came Wednesday and Thursday, and not on Friday.”
Opening with feet of snow still on the ground isn’t rare, Goldsmith said, and is one of the unique parts of the ice cream business in Maine.
“We know we don’t have any control over the weather,” she said. “Once the ice cream store opens, you at least know spring is close. At least in this weather, your ice cream won’t melt too quick.”
On Friday, the weather service predicted a 30 percent chance of snow showers after 2 p.m., with increasing clouds and temperatures maxing out in the high 20s. Wind chill values Friday night are predicted to be as low as minus-one in central Maine.
Temperatures on Saturday are expected to rise into the high 30s or low 40s. A chance of more snow is possible Saturday night.