Drivers who endured Tuesday morning’s slick roads can expect more challenges Wednesday as a major storm brings strong winds and heavy rain to Maine.

The National Weather Service in Gray is forecasting 1½ to 2 inches of rain throughout the day and gale-force winds in Portland and coastal areas.

Margaret Curtis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said there is a flood watch for western and southern Maine. The frozen ground will make the rain run off quickly, and that will push rivers toward flood stage. The weather service will be keeping an eye on several rivers, including the Presumpscot River in Westbrook and the Saco River in Conway, N.H.

“There will be a lot of water,” Curtis said. “There are a number of rivers we’ll be watching.”

With temperatures rising as the storm draws warmer air from the south, Portland can expect almost all rain, while northern mountains will likely get snow and sleet mixed with rain, she said.

“We are going to see a steady rain all day,” Curtis said.

Along the coast, winds could gust up to 40 mph.

Central Maine Power Co. spokeswoman Gail Rice said CMP crews were gearing up Tuesday to deal with the potential for widespread power outages.

The storm is sure to complicate one of the busiest travel days of the year, with the possibility of flight delays and poor driving conditions.

Curtis said driving during the early morning – before 10 a.m. Wednesday – could prove to be the most treacherous because some roads could ice over. She said drivers inland should use caution as roads could be slick.

If you have to travel Wednesday by car, the best time will be after 10 a.m., when temperatures are expected to climb into the 50-degree range.

Paul Bradbury, director of the Portland International Jetport, said he does not expect any flights to be delayed early Wednesday morning, but there could be delays or cancellations as the storm worsens later in the day. He said all the inbound flights arrived on time Tuesday night, which means those planes should be able to depart.

It was bad on the roads Tuesday morning.

Through the morning commute, police reported more than 100 crashes in southern Maine as early-morning snow made roads slippery.

The Knox County Sheriff’s Office investigated a fatal crash in the town of Washington. In a news release, Chief Deputy Timothy Carroll identified the victim as William Coperthwaite, 83, of Machiasport.

Carroll said Coperthwaite was driving south on Route 220 around 12:30 p.m. when he lost control of his car. Roads were slippery at the time. Coperthwaite’s car went off the road, hit a rock, spun and then hit a tree on the driver’s side. Coperthwaite was alone in the car.

Portland alone reported 49 crashes.

A 1998 Ford slid into a house at Mellen Street and Cumberland Avenue, smashing a hole in the brick foundation and showering Patrick Mulkern with dust.

Mulkern, an electrician, was connecting wires to an electrical panel in the basement when the car smashed through the foundation about 12 feet away at 8:13 a.m.

“All of a sudden I heard this loud explosion. I thought it was an earthquake at first,” he said. “A big cloud of smoke came over and hit me. Bricks and glass went everywhere.”

He was stunned to see the whole front end of the car protruding through the corner of the foundation. “It was unreal,” he said.

Portland Public Services Director Michael Bobinsky said road crews expected a light snow but weren’t anticipating that it would melt and then refreeze during the morning commute.

Crews planned to clear storm drains in preparation for Wednesday’s heavy rain, he said. Flooding could create its own driving problems and cause property damage, he said.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey and Jeffrey Blackwell, online content producer, contributed to this report.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

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