An unseasonal-for-November wintry mix, to be followed by likely record-setting cold temperatures, has crews scrambling Tuesday to free streets and sidewalks from an icy entombment.

Tuesday saw central Maine get various coatings of precipitation that, if left unaddressed by plows and shovels, could freeze in place until a thaw comes. Augusta Public Works Director Lesley Jones said the weather is unusual for November, and hopefully not an indication of what winter will be like.

“It’s an odd storm to start the season,” Jones said midday Tuesday in Augusta, where she said plow truck drivers had been working on first preparing for and then dealing with the storm since around 3 p.m. Monday. “We don’t normally get freezing rain this time of year. We do get storms in November, but it’s normally snow, and you plow it and you’re done and you move on.”

Casey Hynds salts the sidewalk Tuesday in front of Cushnoc Brewing in Augusta, where he works as manager. Snow and freezing rain accumulated Tuesday throughout Maine. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy Buy this Photo

“If the roads are wet and the temps drop drastically, we could get black ice, and anything we don’t scrape off the roads will freeze,” she added. “This time of year, it’s important to get the roads clean. If it freezes and you don’t get a warm spell, you could have it there all winter.”

Michael Cempa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said that Tuesday night lows in the Augusta area were expected to be between just 10 and 15 degrees, with wind chills approaching 0 degrees Wednesday morning. He said the forecast for Wednesday is that highs will only climb into the upper 20s.

So the Augusta area could break two records for this time of year since, Cempa said, the record low for Augusta for this time of year is 13 degrees, and the record for the coldest high temperature is 32 degrees.

The precipitation was expected to stop Tuesday afternoon or evening, to be followed by increasing wind and plummeting temperatures.

“We’ll have some windy conditions through a good chunk of the night, with wind chills probably approaching 0 tomorrow morning,” Cempa said. “The record low is 13 in Augusta, so we’re going to get right around there.”

Sean Goodwin, director of emergency management for Kennebec County, said he’d heard of no major weather-related incidents or accidents Tuesday, though public works crews were busy throughout the county. He also said a concern with the cold coming on the heels of the mixed precipitation is that what fell could freeze in place, and stick around until it warms up enough to thaw.

“Anything that was wet or slushy, if you haven’t moved it (by the time the cold temperatures come), I hope you like it, because it’s going to be there a while,” Goodwin said.

Inclement weather conditions were the cause of a series of motor vehicle crashes across Franklin and Somerset counties throughout Monday and Tuesday. None of these crashes resulted in serious personal injury, according to officials at county communications departments.

Jones said the city had plenty of sand, salt and brine on hand for the storm, but had not yet completed training its new drivers for the season before the storm came. She said usually new driver training continues through November. But she said the city’s crew of drivers, despite the newest among them not yet completing their full slate of usual training, were doing a great job so far with the storm.

Waterville Deputy Police Chief Bill Bonney said Tuesday afternoon that no accidents had been reported in Waterville that day. But he warned that even after the storm ends, its hazards, specifically ice, will remain, especially with the cold temperatures.

“The precipitation is supposed to continue into mid-evening tonight and the temperature is looking to drop down into the teens overnight, so when people get up in the morning they can expect icy conditions that’ll be dangerous for driving,” Bonney said. “So we hope folks exercise caution even through tomorrow and recognize even though the storm is over, there are still going to be some icy spots.”

Augusta canceled rubbish collection Tuesday, which freed up two more drivers, who would otherwise drive garbage trucks, to drive plows instead. It also avoided having rubbish collection workers out trying to round up trash bags when the ground was slippery from ice and snow.

Dr. Robert Carbonneau tosses ice melting pellets on the sidewalk in front of his Water Street optometry office around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Jones said Augusta put an emphasis on sidewalks Tuesday, out of concern if they’re left uncleared when the temperatures drop, it could freeze in place. Three sidewalk plows were sent out around 9 a.m. Tuesday to try to clear sidewalks.

Cempa said temperatures are expected to warm back up a little bit Thursday and more Friday before it’ll get cold again Saturday.

Most area school districts canceled classes Tuesday due to the weather, including Regional School Unit 2, which includes Monmouth, Hall-Dale and Richmond; Augusta schools; School Administrative District 11 in the Gardiner area; Waterville Public Schools; Winthrop Public Schools and School Administrative District 54, which includes several Skowhegan area schools.

Kennebec Valley Community College announced in a Facebook post that its campus would be closed all day and that all classes were canceled.

An Augusta Planning Board meeting scheduled for Tuesday night was rescheduled to Dec. 3, due to the weather.

All state offices had delayed openings Tuesday, opening at 11 a.m., according to a news release which cited inclement weather conditions. A meeting of the Liquor and Lottery Commission was canceled.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.