AUGUSTA — Schools, legislative sessions and hearings, airline flights, bus trips and a host of other public functions were canceled Thursday as a nor’easter barreled into central Maine, stranding some tractor-trailers on steep hills and keeping plow trucks busy as heavy snow accumulated at an inch or more per hour.

Forecasts called for nearly a foot of snow in some areas as heavy wind created white-out conditions and treacherous driving conditions.

Thursday’s nor’easter brought the highest snowfall amount for a single storm so far this winter season, and a couple of inches more than predictions earlier this week, according to Stacie Hanes, a meterologist with the National Weather Service in Gray.

“It’s always hard to tell with these storms that are going to be right on the coast,” Hanes said. “It depends on where the low pressure system forms and where the band decides to set up.”

Meanwhile, forecasters were watching closely another storm expected to arrive in Maine, with another heaping of snow due Sunday night into Monday.

Just after 4 p.m. Thursday, Hanes said snowfall totals were about 7 inches in Augusta and Winslow, with anywhere from an additional 1 to 3 inches expected in central Maine by the time the storm stopped Thursday night. The snow in the Augusta-Waterville area began just before 10 a.m. and was expected to continue until about 9 p.m. Thursday.

Thursday’s nor’easter was part of a massive winter weather system that slammed the East Coast and affected more than 50 million people. A dozen states, including Maine, were under winter weather advisories.

The storm contributed to a number of crashes and hazardous road conditions across the region.

Drivers reported white-out conditions and vehicles off the road. Around 3 p.m., an accident involving two tractor-trailers and a car at mile 108 of Interstate 95, near the Western Avenue exit, reduced northbound traffic to one lane, according to a news release from Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Units from the Maine State Police and the Augusta Fire Department were at the scene, where one tractor-trailer had front-end damage, a car was in the ditch, and a second tractor-trailer was pulled off the road about 100 yards ahead. Initial emergency responders reported no injuries and minor fuel or oil spills.

Emergency dispatchers and police officials in Franklin and Somerset counties and around the Waterville area reported no serious accidents by Thursday evening, although there were some cases in which vehicles got stuck in the road or slid off roads.

In Winslow, traffic was backed up for more than an hour on Route 137/China Road starting just before 11 a.m. as a tractor-trailer truck got stuck ascending a hill near Whisperwood Drive. Winslow police Lt. Josh Veilleux said the tractor-trailer had dropped off its cargo and was empty at the time.

“He was kind of blocking both lanes,” said Veilleux, who had been at the scene. “He tried to back up, but he was sliding all over the place.”

The Winslow Public Works Department arrived and put sand down, which enabled the tractor-trailer to creep up the hill, but then it got stuck again, Veilleux said. About that time, two passers-by offered to help. They pulled a Ford F150 pickup in front of the tractor-trailer, hooked onto the front of it and pulled it up to the top of the hill, according to Veilleux.

Later, about 2:30 p.m., another tractor-trailer got stuck at the same spot in Winslow, but only for about 30 minutes, according to Veilleux.

Hanes said that after the storm ends, the temperature will drop and wind will be gusty. “It’s going to be quite chilly overnight — 2, 1, zero degrees. With wind chill it should be about minus 10 around daybreak,” she said.

The temperature later Friday was expected to warm into the lower teens. Hanes said the end-of-the-weekend storm could bring as much snow as Thursday’s nor’easter, and possibly change to a mix of rain and snow.

Hanes said the current storm track and cold air means a storm is forecast every two days or so.

Justin Arnott, another meteorologist in with the National Weather Service in Gray, said earlier that improvements in technology allowed forecasters to see the effects earlier, and the early cancellations of events helps keep people off the roads and allow the plow drivers to do their work more easily.

The Maine Judicial Branch closed a number of courthouses Thursday, including the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta, Waterville District Court and other courts, including those in Somerset and Sagadahoc counties. Franklin County courts were open until 11 a.m.

State workers were on the job until the governor ordered offices closed at noon Thursday; legislative hearings and sessions had been canceled previously.

“Please remember to keep a safe distance behind other vehicles and give plow trucks plenty of room to operate,” LePage said in a statement Thursday morning.

The speed limit was reduced to 45 mph on the Maine Turnpike from Kittery to Augusta. Turnpike officials warned drivers to travel with caution, especially around crashes, because of low visibility. Crashes were reported on the turnpike in Auburn and West Gardiner.

A number of town offices announced early closings as well Thursday. Pittston and Belgrade town offices announced a noon closing; and in Gardiner, the library and city offices were closing at noon. Richmond town offices closed at 1 p.m. Thursday, and the library was closed as well. Augusta City Center offices closed at 1 p.m. Thursday and the City Council meeting originally scheduled for Thursday night was canceled.

The website of Concord Trailways indicated a number of bus trips in Maine were canceled early Thursday and that only two northbound runs, one each from Boston’s South Station and Logan Airport to Portland, would operate Thursday night, along with a northbound bus from New York City.

Augusta and Bangor campuses of the University of Maine at Augusta were closed all day, as was Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield. While most central Maine schools closed all day, Regional School Unit 18, the Messalonskee and China schools, dismissed students at 11:30 a.m. and canceled all later activities.

The city of Augusta imposed a parking ban from noon Thursday to noon Friday, and a parking ban in the town of Richmond is to end at 6 a.m. Friday.

Almost all airline flights out of Portland International Jetport were canceled as well.

Staff writer Amy Calder contributed reporting.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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