BANGOR, Maine — A winter storm that started early Tuesday and was expected to last into early Wednesday encased various areas in ice, sleet or snow depending on the region, shutting down judicial centers, city halls, schools and businesses all around the state.
“It looks like we’re not going to see an appreciable relief until about 5 o’clock [Wednesday] morning,” Richard Norton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Caribou, said Tuesday.
Bangor District Court, Brewer City Hall and the schools in both communities were part of more than 900 cancellations or delays announced by 8 a.m. Tuesday after the precipitation started to fall in Maine shortly past midnight. It started in the Bangor area at about 5 a.m., Norton said.
“Bangor airport reported 0.4 of an inch of snow before it changed to freezing rain,” the meteorologist said. “The forecast calls for a total ice accumulation in the Bangor area of 0.6 of an inch of ice. That is going to be a significant amount.”
He warned of hazardous travelling conditions, especially for those out on foot.
“I expect the roads will be taken care of. The problem is the parking lots, driveways and sidewalks are going to be slippery,” Norton said. “Be careful.”
The hazardous road conditions prevented Mark Scott from returning to his home in Worcester, Massachusetts, as planned. But the weather didn’t stop him from picking up his girlfriend from work in downtown Bangor in his Chevy pickup truck.
“I have four-wheel drive, so it’s no problem. I’ve been doing this for years,” said Scott, a contractor who provides snow-removal services in Massachusetts. “Instead of her driving in this, I thought I would give her a ride.”
At around 11 a.m., crews from Bangor-based Hopkins Landscaping and Paving were braving the conditions and shoveling and salting West Market Square.
“It’s not bad. Pretty easy,” said Michael Deshane, a Hopkins employee. “I’d rather have non-icy weather.”
A few drivers went off the slick roads early Tuesday, but none of the crashes, as of noon, resulted in serious injuries, according to calls to Bangor-area police departments.
Aside from the slick conditions underfoot, meteorologist Norton warned that the weight of the ice on weak or otherwise compromised trees or tree branches could cause them to break and possibly take down power lines.
The 24-hour storm is reminiscent of the Ice Storm of 1998, when more than 3 inches of ice fell over five days, glazing trees and taking down power lines all over the state, leaving around 80 percent of Mainers shivering in the dark — some for weeks — and causing millions of dollars in damage.
Central Maine Power reported nearly 3,500 without power shortly before 10 a.m. Tuesday, and while electricity was restored in some areas, by 5:30 p.m., the number had grown to about 5,500 in the dark in Androscoggin, Cumberland, Sagadahoc and York counties.
Emera Maine restored power to about 1,500 customers during the day and only reported 16 customers without electricity shortly before 5 p.m. The utility warned, however, that areas of icing were still predicted later in some areas and that crews were prepared to respond in case of further outages.
Northern parts of the state could see 5 to 6 inches of snow, followed by sleet or ice pellets, with the storm warning in effect through 1 p.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.
“It’s going to basically be freezing rain all day in the Bangor area until the evening, when it switches to rain” for a couple of hours, Norton said. “At about 9 p.m. [Tuesday], Bangor will cool enough, and it will go back to the freezing rain.”
There was a possibility of a wintry mix of freezing rain and sleet across much of eastern and southern Maine through 4 a.m. Wednesday, according to the weather service.
With so much ice expected to fall, Norton said, “It could be a fun drive into work [Wednesday] morning.”
BDN writer Danielle McLean contributed to this report.