Roads across central Maine became ice rinks Friday as freezing rain fell across the region, sending motorists sliding off the interstate, state routes and back ways.

Most of central Maine was under a winter weather advisory until noon Friday, with mixed precipitation and temperatures hovering around freezing, according to the National Weather Service. The freezing rain started falling in central Maine between 7:30 and 8 a.m., and conditions quickly became slippery.

Chief Deputy Mike Mitchell, of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, said that there were “so many accidents it’s crazy” between Madison and Anson on Friday, but that he had not heard of any that resulted in injury.

Frank Maker with All Star Towing checks with the driver of a Toyota sedan that went off the road on southbound I-95 north of Clinton on Friday. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“Our deputies are just bouncing from one to another, and people are waiting a long time for them to get there,” Mitchell said. “Some vehicles slid off the road and there was no damage, but they were waiting for a tow or for sand to help them get back on the road.”

Maine State Police Lt. Pat Hood said Troop D responded to “at least a dozen” crashes in the greater Augusta area on Interstate 95. He said most are just property damage, but a couple involved minor injuries where at least one occupant was taken to the hospital. He said the crashes began coming in around 9 a.m., but slowed down from Augusta to Pittsfield just after 11 a.m.

Hood said the northbound portion of Interstate 95 was closed for a short time around 10 a.m. between miles 112 and 117 while two crashes were cleared and the road treated. Hood said Maine Department of Transportation crews had been treating the roads all Friday morning, and conditions were beginning to improve around 11:30 a.m.

“Our advice is to allow plenty of room between vehicles so a driver has a few seconds to react to an event that may occur around them, ensuring a chain-reaction crash does not occur,” he said. “Of course, we want motorists to be patient and observe the reduced 45 mph (speed limit sign) when lit.”

A portion of U.S. Route 2 from Skowhegan into Canaan was reportedly so difficult to traverse that many drivers chose to wait on the side of the road until conditions got better. Skowhegan Police Chief David Bucknam said he got a report from one man whose wife and children had been parked on the side of the road for an hour and a half before they were able to drive again. The road was not officially closed, however.

“The Maine DOT had a truck that broke down, so while they were waiting to get a replacement for it, the roads continued to get worse and worse, so people pulled over on the side of the road and played it extremely smart by parking instead of driving and waiting for the truck to get back out there and lay sand,” said Bucknam.

Conditions in Franklin County were similarly treacherous.

Two miles east of the accident involving the Honda sedan and the tractor trailer, the driver of the 2005 Toyota lost control on a curve and slid off Farmington Falls Road into trees. Franklin County Sheriff’s Office photo

Between 7 and 10 a.m., deputies responded to five crashes related to slick roads. Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols said that rain falling onto frozen roads turned a main roadway — Route 2 — “into an icy skating rink to the point where first responders (were) slipping and falling at accident scenes.”

While NorthStar Ambulance was responding to a single-vehicle crash that injured a female driver in New Sharon around 9 a.m., the ambulance itself got into a crash.

“As NorthStar rescue was attempting to negotiate the myriad of cars and rescue vehicles at the intersection of the Farmington Falls Road and Philbrick Street in Farmington, the driver of the Ambulance lost control and ran off the road into a utility pole, snapping it in half causing the rest to crash down on top of the unit, which created a brilliant flash of electricity trapping the rescue personnel inside until CMP could arrive at the scene to shut the power down,” Nichols wrote in a news release Friday afternoon.

The ambulance was en route to Mile Hill Road in New Sharon, where Lee Ann Delcourt, 44, of Carrabassett Valley, was hurt when she lost control of her Ford F-150, crossed into the oncoming lane of traffic and skidded into the woods. Three juveniles were in the vehicle with Delcourt at the time, but none were injured, according to Nichols. She had been driving southbound on the Rome side of Mile Hill Road.

Earlier in the morning, a Wilton woman was transported to Franklin Memorial Hospital after getting injured in a head-on crash between her four-door Honda and a tractor trailer loaded with logs. Heather Starbuck, 46, collided with the truck after she lost control going around a corner on Route 2 in New Sharon. Route 2 is also Farmington Falls Road.

The driver of the 2007 Honda lost control on Farmington Falls Road and collided with a Western Star logging truck Friday morning. Franklin County Sheriff’s Office photo

“The truck driver did his best to avoid the car, but road conditions were just too icy,” Nichols wrote in a release. “The Honda bounced off from the side of the truck’s cab and careened back across the road going into a field.”

The truck was operated by 21-year-old Duncan McLain, of Madison, and owned by Olson’s Logging of Madison. McLain was not injured, but both vehicles were towed, Nichols said. That incident took place at approximately 7:30 a.m.

Less than half an hour later and 2 miles east of that crash, Andrew Cordes, 22, of Augusta, was injured and taken to Franklin Memorial Hospital. While traveling westbound on Farmington Falls Road in New Sharon, he lost control negotiating a corner, slid across the center line and into trees. Cordes had been driving a 2005 four-door Toyota.

In the last weather-related incident Nichols described Friday, a deputy responded to a call regarding multiple vehicles off Weld Road in Perkins Township at 9:32 a.m.

“All the crashes were non reportable,” Nichols wrote.

The Franklin County sheriff thanked New Sharon and Farmington firefighters as well as Farmington’s road crew and units of the Department of Transportation and Central Maine Power for being “key players in cleaning up the scenes” Friday.

Bucknam, Skowhegan’s chief, said that there were no major crashes in the Somerset County town Friday, but that his department responded to “numerous” motor vehicle incidents.

“The majority were people that slid off the road and needed to be pulled out,” he said.

Conditions were beginning to get better in the late afternoon. “I think the roads are starting to improve with the rain,” Mitchell said at around 4:30 p.m.

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