Drivers largely stayed off the roads in central Maine, and few power outages were reported as a snowstorm created near white-out conditions Tuesday, blasting the area with high wind and lots of snow.

“It certainly is a blizzard,” said Tom Hawley, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Gray.

Even more snow is on the way Friday, with 3 to 6 inches predicted in central and northern Maine. More than a foot of snow had fallen in Kennebec and Somerset counties by Tuesday night, according to the weather service, though no official snowfall totals were available for Augusta or Waterville. Wind speeds were high with the highest in the area reported in Augusta at 54 mph, according to the weather service. At 1:35 p.m. Tuesday, winds gusts in Waterville were at 41 mph.

By 6 p.m. Tuesday, local school districts began posting notices on their websites saying schools would be closed Wednesday: Augusta; Winthrop; Regional School Unit 2, which consists of Dresden, Hallowell, Farmingdale, Monmouth and Richmond; Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit 12, whose member towns are Alna, Chelsea, Palermo, Somerville, Whitefield, Windsor and Westport Island; Maine School Administrative District 11, which consists of Gardiner, Pittston, Randolph and West Gardiner; and Maranacook area schools.

Gov. Paul LePage declared a state of emergency early Tuesday morning and ordered state offices closed as the storm blew into central Maine with forecasts calling for 18 inches of snow by the storm’s end early Wednesday morning.

“The amount of snow and the high winds, along with blowing and drifting snow, makes this storm dangerous for many Mainers,” LePage said in a news release.


John Jensenius, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said just before 5 p.m. that another 4 inches of snow was expected to fall around the state before the storm tapered off.

“We do expect it to snow this evening with blizzard or near-blizzard conditions,” Jensenius said Tuesday night. “Later tonight, around midnight or so, it should be tapering off to light snow, ending by morning. Winds which are rather gusty right now should be down, probably on the order of 10 to 20 mph tomorrow for gusts.”

The last time Maine had a comparable blizzard was two winters ago, when more snow fell than on Tuesday, according to Jensenius. “We haven’t had a good blizzard with strong winds, low visibilities and snow and blowing snow since February 2013,” he said.

In other parts of the state, 20 inches of snow was recorded in Portland by mid-afternoon, 21 inches in Lewiston and 15 inches in Gray. A blizzard watch was expected to remain in effect until 4 a.m. Wednesday with snowfall continuing through mid-morning Wednesday.

During the day on Tuesday, heavy wind caused drifting, so some spots had very little snow on the ground, while others nearby had 2 feet or more.

With all state offices closed and many businesses following suit, traffic was light and few accidents were reported in central Maine.


City offices in Augusta were closed and trash pickup was canceled. Just after 5 p.m. Tuesday, Augusta police announced that a citywide parking ban would remain in effect until 6 p.m. Wednesday. Augusta District Court and Kennebec County Superior Court were closed Tuesday and are scheduled to reopen at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Waterville municipal offices closed at 10 a.m., with Tuesday’s garbage pickup postponed to Wednesday, when it will be collected from both Tuesday and Wednesday routes. Municipal offices in Skowhegan and most other communities were also closed.

U.S. Route 202, a main thoroughfare between Lewiston and Augusta that typically is clogged with morning commuters, was nearly empty Tuesday morning. Likewise, downtowns in central Maine cities and towns were deserted.

Most post offices in Maine were closed because of dangerous weather conditions, said Melissa Lohnes, spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service. Normal post office hours and operations are expected to resume Wednesday.

At Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville, office manager Sam Sanborn said it was the first time in the history of the movie theater that daytime showings were canceled because of the weather.

“I think a lot of businesses have followed the state’s lead and shut down, which means fewer people on the road,” said Lynette Miller, spokeswoman for the Maine Emergency Management Agency. “Folks seem to be heeding the warnings to stay off the roads, which is an excellent thing.”


Dennis Pike, NOAA cooperative weather observer for the Farmington area, who takes three daily weather measurements for NOAA, said his 4 p.m. measurement showed there had been 11.7 inches of snowfall in Farmington. For his final observation at midnight, Pike said he suspected the total snowfall would end up being around 16 inches.


While many businesses were closed, the Hi-Hat Pancake House in Farmingdale remained true to its policy of never closing. Samantha Preshong, a waitress at Hi-Hat, said business picked up after a slow start.

A number of customers visited because a message on the restaurant’s Facebook page promised it would open at 6 a.m. regardless of weather.

“A lot of people said they saw we were going to be open and serving,” Preshong said.

Young families were beginning to pop in around 8 a.m., as day care centers in the area were closed, Preshong said.


Customers’ complaints were not targeted to the roads, but the wind.

“The roads are terrible,” Preshong said, “but the snow and wind are making it hard to see.”

In Waterville, Auto Zone and Aroma Joe’s Coffee were also open on the city’s Kennedy Memorial Drive.

“We’re open all the time, except of course if there’s a power outage,” said Jillian Dupuis, a barista at Aroma Joe’s who said she arrived at work around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday before road conditions were too bad.

“The visibility is not good,” Dupuis said. “Honestly, I’m surprised at how many people are driving.”

Many central Mainers chose to stay off the roads and enjoy the day at home.


In Fairfield, Gail Edwards and her daughter Gracie, who works at the Good Will-Hinckley campus, spent the day playing cards, watching movies and writing.

“The snow is blowing sideways over here at the Hinckley campus, where I am all cozy,” Edwards said. “Every now and then I look out the window and see what I love about living in Maine — raw, wild nature at its most beautiful and powerful.”


A handful of people inside the Maine Emergency Management Agency’s communication center on Tuesday morning spoke quietly on telephones, monitored laptop computers or kept their eyes on TV news reports. Miller said the storm had prompted a partial activation of the emergency team.

Representatives from the Maine State Police, the Maine Department of Transportation, the Maine Turnpike Authority and the National Guard were all on hand. Others remained ready to respond if needed, Miller said.

“We know where everyone is, so we can reach out if we need to,” she said.


The team met to discuss strategy and logistics in a mid-morning conference call that included LePage and various public agencies, such as the National Weather Service, and included representation from Central Maine Power Co.

Wind gust speeds on Tuesday in Augusta reached 54 mph and up to 40 mph in Waterville, but there were few reports of power outages or trees down.

Early Tuesday evening, CMP reported 2,492 total outages in the state, most in York County. There were 233 customers without power in Kennebec County and 129 in Somerset.

Somerset County Sheriff’s Deputy Joe Jackson said rural communities were almost like ghost towns as he patrolled county roads from Skowhegan, Canaan, Bingham, Moscow, Solon, Embden and into Anson.

“We have heavy snowfall. The roads are horrible. There isn’t a lot of traffic — almost whiteout conditions,” Jackson said by phone on the road from North Anson. “Road crews are out and keeping up with it the best they can, but it’s just coming down so fast right now everyone’s struggling with it.”

One truck reportedly slid off the road on Route 150 in Cornville, but otherwise there were no reported accidents, as most people chose to take the warnings to heart and stay home and off the roads. He said along rural roads where there are open fields, the snowdrifts can pose a real challenge to all but the heaviest of four-wheel-drive vehicles.


“It’s very treacherous out there, and they need to stay home unless there’s an emergency,” he said.

Maine State Police Lt. Erik Baker, supervisor for Troop G, which covers the Maine Turnpike, said 19 cars slid off the highway or got stuck in snowbanks Tuesday morning.

Dispatchers in Augusta and Winthrop, who cover a large section of Kennebec County, reported no morning crashes or weather-related incidents on Tuesday. A dispatcher for the Waterville Police Department also said no crashes involving injuries or storm-related damage had been reported.

The blizzard warning was set to expire at 4 a.m. Wednesday, meaning it will be a long day for public works crews working on road cleanup.

“Our concern is fatigue,” Augusta Public Works Director Lesley Jones said. “You can get snow blindness. It mesmerizes you.”

Staff writers Doug Harlow, Craig Crosby, Amy Calder, Betty Adams and Kaitlin Schroeder contributed to this report.

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