Several central Maine communities welcomed the first day of spring Thursday with a fresh foot or more of wet heavy snow, and officials raised concerns about sand supplies and flooding in the coming weeks.
Heaviest snowfall was in Franklin, Somerset and Oxford counties, with Farmington reporting more than 15 inches, Wilton 14 inches and New Sharon with 13 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Gray.
Snowfall dropped off sharply farther south, where the greater Waterville area got about a half-foot of snow. Winslow reported 4.5 inches and Augusta had about 3 inches. By 9 a.m., the snow had turned to rain, which tapered off by mid-afternoon. Temperatures reached the high 30s with a cloudy sky, sometimes punctuated by sun, Thursday afternoon.
The storm dropped more snow than Waterville Public Works Director Mark Turner expected after looking at forecasts Wednesday.
“We just thought we were going to go out and sand (Wednesday) night,” Turner said. “We got more than we thought we would. Everyone had to come in. We were able to deal with it, but it’s been difficult.”
With the rain quickly following the heavy snow, Turner was worried about catch basins potentially clogging, causing flooding.
“When we get this type of precipitation, we have those concerns,” he said, adding that public works has been alerted of a couple spots of flooding. “Last week we did a strategic clearing of the catch basins. We know this is the melting season.”
The more snow and colder-than-usual start to spring creates a the potential for floods once temperatures warm up, which isn’t expected for at least a week.
“When spring does finally look like spring and we get temperatures above freezing and they stay there, with a little bit of rain it could be a big problem,” said Richard Beausoleil, director of Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency. “Hopefully it’ll be a slow warmth — that melts things off a little slower. If we have abnormal temperatures, the fear is it’ll suddenly thaw everything out.”
With snowpacks more than a foot deep, soaking up excess water like a sponge, a sudden release through melting and rainfall could cause rivers and streams to flood.
“People do need to stay alert,” Beausoleil said. “If you live in an area that it normally floods, it’s important to keep an eye on it.”
Beausoleil said the agency expects an updated report of the depth of the snowpacks from the National Weather Service sometime next week.
Several area schools closed for the day, including Skowhegan-based Regional School Unit 54, Farmington-based RSU 9, Newport-based RSU 19 and Readfield-based RSU 38.
Hundreds of Central Maine Power customers were without electricity because of the storm early Thursday, but by 3 p.m., power had been restored to all Somerset County customers and most of those without power throughout the state had it back.
Turner estimated that the Waterville Public Works Department has enough sand left for about three more storms, not including Thursday’s, which Turner said could require more sanding at night.
“It’s very precarious right now,” Turner said of the city’s sand supply. “We probably have 1,100 yards left, and we use about 250 to 300 yards per storm. We may be scraping the back wall here soon.”
Friday will be more of the same, warmer temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s, before a chance of snow on Saturday. The end of the weekend is expected to bring back colder-than-usual temperatures, with Monday being in the 20s.