A powerful snowstorm that hammered the eastern U.S. blasted New Hampshire and Maine as well Thursday, leaving some parts of both states buried under 2 feet of snow.

The storm, which began early Thursday, arrived with unexpected intensity. The National Weather Service Office in Gray said parts of western York County had snowfall rates of 3 to 4 inches an hour, while farther west in New Hampshire snow was falling at a rate of 6 to 7 inches an hour and accumulations topped 3 feet.

“From a meteorological perspective, that rate of snowfall is pretty unbelievable,” meteorologist Maura Casey said.

The result left towns such as Limerick and Newfield in York County under 26 inches of dry, powdery snow. Gorham wasn’t far behind with 24 inches. Portland reported 17.6 inches, far below the record for the date of 22.3 inches set in 1970, Casey said.

Snowfall totals showed how the storm tracked. According to the weather service, places like Sanford in York County received 19 inches, Falmouth 21.7 inches and Brunswick 12 inches. But as the nor’easter moved north and east, the totals dropped off leaving Boothbay Harbor with just 7 inches. Inland areas, including the mountains of western Maine, did not see a lot of snow with Stoneham getting just 3 inches and Rangeley 1.5 inches.

“I can tell you that certainly around here, near 4 inches an hour and up to 6 inches an hour is just incredible,” said Margaret Curtis, another weather service meteorologist in Gray. “So obviously it doesn’t take much time at those rates for snow to pile up.”

The deep snow and whiteout conditions led to several traffic accidents, although no injuries were immediately reported.

A tanker truck carrying about 10,000 gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel overturned on the Route 112 bypass in Gorham just before noon, spilling fuel and closing the road. No injuries were reported following the 11:57 a.m. crash, which  shut down the bypass between Route 114 and Route 202 for much of the afternoon and evening.

Liana Lemke clears her driveway in Portland at the tail end of the powerful winter storm that hit the Northeast on Thursday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

A tractor-trailer crashed near Mile 18 on Interstate 295 in Freeport, closing the northbound lanes early Thursday afternoon. Vehicles had to exit the highway at Exit 17 in Yarmouth to get to Route 1.

The turnpike was blocked at mile 59 southbound in Gray early Thursday afternoon because of multiple crashes, according to the Maine Turnpike Authority. The turnpike authority reduced speed limits for the entire length of the turnpike and prohibited oversized vehicles. The speed limit reduction was lifted just before 9 p.m.

Thursday’s nor’easter was the first big storm of the season, though winter technically doesn’t arrive until Monday. The storm system buried parts of upstate New York under more than 3 feet of snow, broke records in cities and towns across the region, and left plow drivers struggling to clear the roads as snow quickly piled up, The Associated Press reported.

“It was a very difficult, fast storm and it dropped unbelievable amounts of snow,” Tom Coppola, the highway superintendent in charge of maintaining 100 miles of roads in the Albany suburb of Glenville, told the AP. “It’s to the point where we’re having trouble pushing it with our plows.”

Fellow motorists help push out a stuck vehicle on U.S. Route 1 in South Portland on Thursday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

In New York’s Broome County, where the regional center of Binghamton got a record 42 inches of snow, County Executive Jason Garnar said snow fell at a rate of 4 to 5 inches per hour.

“This is the fastest rate of snowfall I’ve ever encountered,” he said.

The hazardous conditions caused dozens of crashes in New Hampshire, Connecticut and eastern New York. New York State Police said a snowmobiler was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer on Interstate 787 in downtown Albany at 2:30 a.m.

In a storm earlier this month, more than 150,00 lost power when heavy, wet snow combined with windy conditions on Dec. 5, but Thursday’s light and fluffy snow did not cause outages anywhere close to that. Central Maine Power and Versant Power, which serves northern and eastern Maine, reported a handful of outages late Thursday.

Dan Arsenault clears a sidewalk in front of the Cumberland County Courthouse, where he works in the maintenance department. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The approach to the winter weather varied in school districts across York and Cumberland counties. Some districts, including South Portland and Westbrook, held remote classes Thursday. Others, including Portland, called a traditional snow day with no classes.

Jeff Porter, superintendent of MSAD 51 in Cumberland, sent a letter to the school community on Wednesday night announcing school would be closed and remote learning would not be held on Thursday. He encouraged families to get off screens, play in the snow or “do whatever it takes to remind each other (and ourselves) why the simplicities of life are indeed the best parts.”

“Thursday will be the first significant snowstorm of the school year. It reminds me of the pre-COVID times when things seemed a bit gentler and a bit easier. The last nine  months have seemed like an endless loss of so many things, and the complete loss of those traditional snow days this year would be yet another one,” he wrote.

Portland declared a citywide parking ban that was in effect from 10 p.m. Thursday through 6 a.m. Friday. The city said the ban is needed to give crews the space they need to push snow back and clean up streets. Vehicles left on city streets after 10 p.m. can be towed at the owner’s expense.

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.