The April Fools’ Day storm dumped heavy, wet snow across central Maine, sending vehicles skidding off slick roads and knocking out power to thousands of customers in the region Friday.

Recent warm weather had softened roads and the ground to make for extremely sloppy conditions for public works’ crews, with many snow plows getting stuck in the slush and struggling to clear roads.

“It’s like driving on ice cream,” Farmington Public Works Director Denis Castonguay said.

He said three of his nine snow plows got stuck while trying to clear gravel roads on some of the town’s steeper hills. It took about 45 minutes each time to pull the trucks out and get them back on the road.

“It’s put a big dent in (clearing) the roads, as far as, it was snowing steady, and we were having to pull vehicles off routes to get the plows out,” Castonguay said.

Gardiner Police Chief James Toman said there had been five vehicles involved in crashes Friday morning, but no injuries were reported.

The extremely dangerous road conditions made it tough for emergency responders as the crashes piled up throughout Friday.

“It takes a while for officers to get there, but we have to respond safely,” Toman said.

Emergency responders in Waterville had to deal with traffic lights not changing due to the heavy, wet snow blocking sensors, which change traffic lights from green to red. The fire department used fire trucks and extendable brushes to remove snow from the traffic lights’ camera lenses.

Skowhegan Public Works Director Gregory Dore said two of his 11 snow plows slid off ice-covered roads.

“We’re having problems all over with cars having a tough time and skidding off roads,” Dore said.

Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office handled around 20 vehicle crashes by around 3 p.m., and no injuries were reported, according to Cpl. G.J. Neagle.

By noon, the Somerset County emergency dispatch center had 35 reports of vehicle crashes from across the region, according to Michael Smith, Somerset emergency management and communications director.

Most involved vehicles skidding into another vehicle or sliding off the road, Smith said. He said two minor personal injury accidents were reported in Palmyra and Canaan.

A vehicle slid into a firefighter’s personal truck as it responded to a crash Friday morning on Route 2 in Wilton, according to Tom Marble, Franklin County emergency dispatcher.

The firefighter was responding to one of 15 crashes reported in Franklin County before 1 p.m., Marble said. There were no injuries reported.

The “treacherous” road conditions also made it difficult for Central Maine Power Co. crews to reach the roughly 25,000 customers who lost power during the storm, according to a company statement.

High winds and heavy snow combined to uproot trees from the soft ground and sent tree limbs crashing into power lines to knock out the power, according to company spokesman John Carroll.

A total of 2,121 customers in Kennebec County had no power Friday as of 5 p.m., according to CMP statements. Fewer outages happened in Somerset County, 519, and Franklin, 186, according to the statement, and the company had 600 workers trying to restore power Friday afternoon.

Most of the snowfall that began Friday morning in the region started to taper off around 4 p.m., according to Michael Cempa, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Gray.

Snowfall totals had reached a foot near Farmington in Franklin County, and similar totals were reported across the region, he said.

Today’s forecast looked sunny with temperatures reaching above 40, Cempa said.

“We’ll see some good melting,” he said.

 

David Robinson – 861-9287

[email protected]


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