April 07, 2020

Rain wraps Mainers in icy jacket > Few accidents reported

BANGOR — Cars were entombed in thick shells of ice and everything else was transformed into one big skating rink as freezing rain continued to fall across central and eastern Maine for the second day Tuesday. Coastal regions had rain while northern Maine had a mix of freezing rain and snow.

Many schools were closed Tuesday, including the University of Maine in Orono, which shut down at about 2 p.m.

The slick conditions did not result in any major traffic accidents, but in many areas simply walking was a feat. Bangor emergency rooms were busy Monday and Tuesday.

“Everybody’s falling on the ice,” said Dr. Bob Anthony, chief of the emergency department at St. Joseph Hospital. “We’ve had lots and lots and lots of broken wrists. It’s been as busy as it’s ever been.”

The story was much the same at Eastern Maine Medical Center, according to Nancy Ballard, the center’s director of community relations.

The Bangor Public Works Department has had seven trucks out spreading salt and sand “pretty steady” since Monday morning, said dispatcher John Russell. Several graders were out scraping the ice.

At Bangor International Airport, operations superintendent Bob Jarvis said there were no major flight delays or cancellations, but keeping the runways ice-free required on all-out assault comparable to Bangor’s citywide effort. Jarvis was running three sand trucks plus seven plows with scraper blades.

According to Jim Hayes at the National Weather Service in Gray, the ice blanket was the result of rain formed in warm air aloft coming into contact with cold air on the ground.

“It looks like ordinary rain,” he said, “but it freezes everything — on contact — because it’s colder on the ground.”

Hayes said conditions will remain much the same for the rest of the week, but should improve for the weekend.

Bangor police reported that despite the icy conditions, there had been only a few accidents. Late Tuesday morning, a Hermon man was driving toward the back of the Kev-Lan Corner store when he encountered slick conditions that sent his car sliding into a light pole, causing about $1,500 in damage to his car.

The night before, a Bangor motorist hadn’t adequately cleared the ice from his car’s windshield, according to police, and drove off Park Street, knocking over a no-parking sign. No damage to the car was reported, but the sign wasn’t so fortunate.

Among local people hurt in ice-related accidents was Mike Corson, transportation supervisor for SAD 23 (Levant and Carmel).

Corson received six stitches at St. Joseph Hospital for a gash in the back of his head after he slipped on the ice at the Levant bus garage Tuesday morning.

In Kenduskeag, icy road conditions caused a Dead River oil truck to slide sideways and slowly roll onto its side into a ditch at 9:20 a.m. Tuesday, as the driver attempted to back into a driveway on Town House Road.

According to state Trooper Gerald Pearson, only a small amount of oil leaked out, and the remainder was pumped into another truck. The driver, who was wearing a seat belt, was not hurt, and the truck received minimal damage, he said.

Despite getting freezing rain, ice pellets and snow in Aroostook County most of Tuesday, police there reported no unusual incidents.

At Houlton International Airport, weather observers recorded a variety of precipitation starting with freezing rain around midnight. That later changed to ice pellets and then to snow. As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, about 5 inches of snow had fallen.

A few school systems in the southern part of the county called off classes Tuesday because of slippery road conditions.

Schools from Mars Hill north ran on schedule, but some Tuesday night activities were postponed.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Department reported that roads in the county were bad and sheriff’s deputies had been busy covering several fender-bender accidents.

In Calais, Sgt. Mark Silk warned that although the roads had been sanded by late afternoon Tuesday, conditions still were icy. The same held true in Baileyville.

Road crews in Piscataquis County found it difficult Tuesday to keep the roads cleared and sanded because of the rain, hail and snow that fell on the region.

Joe Vernott, highway foreman for the Department of Transportation in the Guilford area, said his crews was applying sand and salt on the highways, but the roads would ice over as soon as the mixture was applied. The crews then had to start the process all over again. Vernott expected his crews would be out all night clearing roadways.

Slick roads were common in Piscataquis County and in the Dexter region as well, but no major accidents were reported.

Dispatcher Tim Richardson of the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department said he had fielded many calls regarding road conditions, but received only one accident report.

Investigator Jamie Kane of the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department said Adam Hunt, 23, of Monson complained of shoulder and back pain after his vehicle left the Willimantic Road at about noon. Kane said Hunt was traveling from Willimantic to Monson when he lost control of his 1993 Oldsmobile on a curve in the road. The vehicle left the road and struck a tree head-on, Kane said. Hunt was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident, according to Kane, who estimated damage to the vehicle at $4,600.

Hunt was taken by ambulance to Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft where he was treated.

All school systems in the region except Milo closed Tuesday because of the weather. SAD 41 Superintendent Jan Laux said early morning reports from road crews found the roads in “pretty good shape” in his area.

Temperatures stayed just above freezing on the coast Tuesday, thawing the icy conditions that prevailed Monday.

A steady rain fell all day Tuesday in Hancock County, but only Bar Harbor and Ellsworth police reported a few minor accidents in the early morning hours, as side roads remained slick until about 8 a.m.

Schools were canceled across Somerset County on Tuesday. SAD 48 also canceled a regular meeting of its board of directors Tuesday night. In Hartland, town officials canceled a public hearing Tuesday night on a proposal for construction of a new community center.

“Two hours ago, we sanded Route 23. At noontime, there was an oil truck out there that couldn’t move. So we’re sanding again,” Hartland Town Manager Peggy Morgan reported Tuesday afternoon.

With problems such as that on the rural roads, Morgan said there was no point for people to come out to a meeting that will be repeated next week.

Unseasonably warm weather spared much of the Knox County region from the fender-bending havoc caused by icy roads in other parts of eastern Maine. Although school buses had some delays in the hill towns of Knox County, and a few vehicles were reported off the road in the early morning hours, the precipitation that turned to ice elsewhere stayed as rain along the coast.

The dispatcher at the Knox County Sheriff’s Department reported few calls for assistance.

“All we’ve had after this morning was rain,” she said. “We’ve been lucky.”

At Maine State Police Troop D headquarters in Thomaston, Lt. Dennis Hayden described Tuesday as “not too bad.”

“We had a few cars sliding off the road early, but everything was minor in nature,” he said.

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