Plow crews and police departments in central Maine saw few major problems Tuesday as they dealt with the region’s first significant snowfall of the season, which slowed traffic, caused some minor car accidents and led some businesses to close early.

Four to 8 inches of snow fell in Kennebec County, according to estimates from the National Weather Service, while areas of Franklin and Somerset counties were expected to get greater accumulations before the snow tapered off and turned to freezing rain later Tuesday.

“There were some minor equipment breakdowns, but we always expect to have to work those things out during the first storm of the season,” Waterville Public Works Director Mark Turner said. “For the most part things went as well as we could have expected.”

For Wednesday, the National Weather Service is predicting a chance of snow and freezing drizzle before noon, with some snow and sleet until about 3 p.m.

Shoppers hit the stores Monday in preparation for the storm, buying shovels and rock salt to get ready. Local plow crews said they were ready for the storm, which arrived during school vacation week and just days after a warm stretch of weather that brought temperatures into the 50s on Christmas.

By mid-morning Tuesday, the National Weather Service had received just two reports of snowfall totals in Kennebec County, said Mike Kistner, a meteorologist. In Winslow, 1.7 inches was reported around 7 a.m.; and in Wayne, 3 inches was reported at 7:30 a.m. Total snowfall accumulations were not available later in the day and were not expected until Wednesday morning, Kistner said.

Early reports in Franklin County indicated snowfall of 2.5 inches just north of Rangeley at 6 a.m.; and in Somerset County, 3.5 inches was reported in Harmony around 7 a.m.

Meanwhile, few weather-related accidents were reported early Tuesday morning; and in many parts of the region, ski areas and outdoor recreation centers were celebrating the winter’s first significant snowfall.

At the Sugarloaf ski resort in Carrabassett Valley, several inches of snow had fallen by mid-morning Tuesday, adding to a base of about 5 inches that fell on Sunday, said Director of Marketing Ethan Austin. Twenty trails are open at Sugarloaf, out of the mountain’s 160 trails and glades, but additional lifts and trails are expected to open by the end of the week, Austin said.

“It was a slow start, just like it was for everyone in New England. It was just unseasonably warm for the first part of December, but this week has been great,” Austin said. “The long-term forecast is looking good too, so we’re very optimistic that winter is here to stay.”

At the Quarry Road Recreation Area in Waterville, all 6 miles of the area’s cross-country ski trails were groomed for the first time this winter on Tuesday morning, said Waterville Parks and Recreation Director Matt Skehan.

“This is the latest snow we’ve had in six years,” Skehan said. “We’ve been taking a lot of calls from kids on vacation looking to come up. We’re very happy (the trails) are going to get the use that we want them to get now that we have full coverage.”

Friends Melanie Kazenel, Jennie Hatch and Emily Estes were among the first skiers and snowshoers on the Waterville trails Tuesday, after the weather forced them to cancel plans to visit Baxter State Park in Millinocket.

“It’s fantastic,” said Kazenel, 27, of Canton, Massachusetts. “It’s great to get outside.”

The speed limit on the Maine Turnpike from the New Hampshire line to Gardiner was reduced to 45 mph for much of the day Tuesday because of the snow, according to the turnpike authority.

Lt. Mark Brooks, of Maine State Police Troop C in Skowhegan, which patrols Interstate 95, said it was “near white-out conditions” on the interstate Tuesday morning. Brooks said traffic was light, with only a few traffic accidents, none involving injuries. He said the Maine Department of Transportation “has been staying up with the snow so far, and the interstate has been safe as long as motorists go slow, as the 45 mph signs are on.”

Several municipal buildings and court offices closed Tuesday, including the Somerset County Courthouse and county business offices in Skowhegan.

“I went in and got there about 5:45, and it was a scary drive in,” said Somerset County Administrator Dawn DiBlasi, of Fairfield, in an email. “And when the court closed, we closed.”

The Skowhegan Municipal Building remained open Tuesday, with town officials and others braving the storm to attend a memorial service at the high school for longtime teacher and sports coach Donald Finley, said Town Manager Christine Almand.

Around 9:30 a.m. there were just four reports of traffic accidents in Somerset County, and relatively few accidents were reported later in the day, said Somerset County Emergency Management Director Michael Smith. The accidents that were reported were “slip and slide” accidents with no injuries reported, Smith said.

“It’s been relatively quiet,” Smith said. “Of course, with schools being closed (because of vacation week) and everything else, there aren’t a lot of people out on the roads.”

Augusta police Sgt. Christian Behr also said officers were busy responding to cars disabled in the snow and minor fender-benders but that no major accidents were reported in the city.

“That’s all we’ve really had,” he said. “Minor crashes and disabled motor vehicle-type calls.”

In the foothills of western Maine, Farmington Public Works Director Denis Castonguay said Tuesday afternoon that the road conditions there were “not too bad” to deal with, in part because of the snowfall’s light texture.

“It’s a lot easier when the snow tends to blow off the roads,” Castonguay said.

Farmington Public Works had 10 plow trucks out since 4:30 a.m. Tuesday working eight plow routes, while also sanding and salting the roads as needed. Two sidewalk plows also were out clearing public walkways.

Because of Farmington’s location in the foothills, some parts of town in higher elevations have received more snow fall than others and therefore have been plowed more than areas in lower elevations.

“It was a little treacherous for a few hours when we were getting 3 inches an hour,” Castonguay said. “It seemed like the higher elevations got a little more and had to be plowed more than others.”

Skowhegan Road Commissioner Greg Dore said he managed to fill two vacant spots on the Highway Department roster Tuesday, with former employees Matt Quinn and Mike McKenney offering to take up the slack. Dore said earlier this week that two seasonal hires quit the 12-man department.

“It’s very slippery underneath,” Dore said of road conditions. “The snow is light, so it doesn’t take much to get it stirred up and make the visibility difficult. Right now it’s coming down pretty good.”

Dore said the snow started about 4 a.m. in Skowhegan. The temperature hovered around 12 degrees for most of the day. He said the cold temperature made the snow easier to plow for what is the first real snow event of the winter.

“It’s a nice break into the season,” he said. “It’s cold enough that it’s not packing and icing up. The snow is light. Heavy, wet snow can create a lot of problems.”

In Waterville, public works crews were expected to work until around 10 p.m. Tuesday clearing roads and then continue downtown cleanup after midnight, said Turner, the public works director.

“Right now a lot of the road surfaces aren’t (cleared) down to the pavement, but we’re hoping to be able to break most of this stuff up,” Turner said late Tuesday afternoon. “We are continuing to advise folks to drive slowly and, if possible, stay off the roads.”

A winter weather advisory was expected to stay in effect through midnight Tuesday in Kennebec and interior Waldo counties while winter storm warnings were expected to stay in effect in Franklin and Somerset counties through 3 a.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Staff writers Craig Crosby, Doug Harlow and Lauren Abbate contributed to this report.

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