AUGUSTA — Winter fended off the approaching start of spring with a solid stiff-arm Tuesday as a storm that was expected to dump up to a foot of snow across much of central Maine caused traffic accidents and closures.

Schools and government agencies throughout the region shut their doors as the storm arrived in two waves Tuesday. Forecasters continued to predict up to 14 inches of snow by the time the second storm left the area early this morning.

Gusty wind of up to 30 mph was expected for overnight, with the heaviest snowfall predicted to occur during the early morning hours.

“It should be gone by the morning commute,” said Meteorologist Eric Schwibs of the National Weather Service in Gray.

Augusta Public Works Street Superintendent Jerry Dostie said about 2 1/2 inches of snow had fallen by 3 p.m. Tuesday. The city streets were wet but virtually snow-free, thanks in part to brief moments of sunshine in between the rounds of snow. He was expecting another 5 to 10 inches of snow before the storm wrapped up today.

Most of Dostie’s crew, which arrived at 5 a.m. Tuesday, was sent home to rest by 3:30 p.m. The drivers were scheduled to report back to work by 3 this morning to prepare for the morning commute.

“The storm hasn’t amounted to what they originally predicted,” Dostie said. “It certainly doesn’t hurt my feelings. It’s a little frustrating to plan, but the less amount of snow, the less costly it is.”

Dostie said he had recorded 70 inches of snow in Augusta before the storm, which should put the city on track for a normal year of 78 inches.

“We’re basically on track for a normal season,” Dostie said. “The number of (snow) events is on track. The total snow is on track. Budgetwise, we’re where we should be, too.”

Augusta schools, like many public schools throughout the state, closed because of the storm. State courts also closed their doors, as did the University of Maine at Augusta. Kennebec County offices closed at 1 p.m.

The weather was responsible for several minor accidents but no serious problems had been reported locally Tuesday afternoon, said Ted Talbot, public information officer for the Maine Department of Transportation. In some areas of the state speed restrictions were in place, including the Augusta area, where the speed limit on Interstate 95 and Interstate 295 was reduced to 45 mph.

“Traffic is flowing and right now there is no reason to tell people to stay home,” Talbot said Tuesday afternoon. “Of course, this is not the brunt of the storm; and as conditions worsen, we encourage people to be more cautious.”

Police responded to a number of crashes, most of which appeared to be little more than fender-benders. The few injuries that were reported appeared to be minor. A crash on Route 135 in Monmouth knocked down utility wires, and neither the driver nor his young passenger was hurt when a van rolled over on Windsor Road in Chelsea.

Cities across the state were planning parking bans to remove the snow. Gardiner’s ban went into effect at 6 p.m. Tuesday and was expected to expire at 7 a.m. today.

The first full day of spring, Thursday, should feature plenty of sunshine and temperatures in the upper 30s, according to the National Weather Service. Service forecasters are calling for a sunny sky and temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s over the next several days.

Staff Writer Rachel Ohm contributed to this report.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642
[email protected]

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