As road crews worked Wednesday morning to clean up 8 to 10 inches of snow before bitter cold was expected to reach central Maine that night, Augusta’s homeless shelter was prepared to cover a rising need during winter weather.

Sloppy conditions also stymied morning commutes, closing and delaying courts and schools. The National Weather Service in Gray said up to 8 inches of snow could fall in Augusta, Skowhegan and Waterville, with some areas around Oxford getting up to 10 inches. At 10 a.m., areas of central and western Maine were still under a winter storm warning, while southern areas were under a hazardous weather outlook.

“(These conditions) make it more challenging for those who live outside to be able to survive,” said John Richardson, executive director of Augusta’s Bread of Life Ministries, on Wednesday.

He said demand in the winter is much higher than in other seasons. In August, the Kennebec Journal reported the waiting list for the shelter’s beds can top 60 families in the winter, compared to 35 during the summer.

On Wednesday morning, Richardson said, a man living in a cold, abandoned building in Gardiner was driven by a Gardiner police officer to the shelter.

“He kindly drove this young man to us to see if we could help,” he said. “(The man) is over to the shelter right now working with our staff; thankfully, we had a bed.”

Richardson said area police departments work closely with the shelter and have an eye out for those living outside during inclement weather.

“Our local police departments are phenomenal,” he said. “They do a great job of checking places … they know where people live outside.”

Demand for beds has been a problem area for the shelter, which prompted Bread of Life to raise money for a large expansion to add 14 more beds to the shelter’s 26. That expansion is still under construction, according to Richardson.

He said the organization also has purchased bus tickets to get homeless people closer to their families and offers a number of low-price weekly rentals to those who need to a place to stay temporarily.

Representatives from Waterville’s Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter were not available for comment by press time.

Road conditions could worsen, as subzero wind chill and near-zero temperature were expected Wednesday night. Gardiner Public Works Director Tony Laplante said his crew was were working to get roads clear before the cold snap moves in. Late morning sun and temperature around freezing would be helpful, he said, but a small flurry with the cold front could complicate cleanup.

“Our goal now is to get the roads all slushed off,” LaPlante said. “There’s a chance for a snow squall attached to the (cold) front; we’re just trying to get everything bare and dry before that.”

Erskine Academy and the Mount Blue Regional School District were closed, while Waterville, and Skowhegan and Augusta schools had two-hour delays. The University of Maine at Augusta opened at noon and the University of Maine at Farmington opened at 1 p.m.

Area courts also were delayed. Augusta District Court and Somerset County Superior Court were delayed until 11, while Franklin County Superior Court opened at 10.

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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