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Buried Again! Maine Cities and Towns Struggle to Clear Another Blast of Snow

Patty Wight

LEWISTON, Maine - Municipalities across Maine are struggling to keep pace with the snow, as the third storm in a week pummels the state. 

City plow drivers are working up to 16-hour shifts or more as they try to push more snow into already towering mounds.

Cities are anxious for a break in the action so they can remove snow that's making some streets nearly impassable.

This is the 28th winter that Keith Martin has plowed the roads of Lewiston, and he says it's the worst he's seen, thanks to a lot of snow in a short period of time.

"Usually we get a 14-, 15-inches dump, and we get two weeks off," Martin says. "I mean, we've only had two days off.  You go home, clean your yard, and you're back in this thing.  I mean, 16, 20 hours makes for a long day and long night."

Martin started his shift at 7 o'clock Monday morning and it'll run through 11:00 at night. But at least he's plowing a rural route, which he says is a lot easier than city streets.

"Out here it's not bad.  I can push. Except for guard rails, I can just wing it back," he says. "But when you're in town - driveway after driveway - there's no room."  

"We've had four storms in the past 10 days - over 50 inches of snow in the past seven days," says Dave Jones, the director of Public Works in Lewiston. He says snow banks are starting to encroach on city streets.

"We're really just starting to run out of places to put it until we can get some snow removal done," Jones says.  "And we can't really begin that until it stops snowing."

Jones says it will likely be Tuesday night before his team can shift to snow removal and cart away truckloads of snow to Lewiston's snow dump.  

Credit Tom Porter / MPBN
Portland Director of Public Works Mike Bobinsky.

It's a similar story in Portland, where director of public services, Mike Bobinsky, says workers did make some progress removing snow over the weekend.  But he says the nearly non-stop storms are testing the limits on capacity and equipment, and the city has to prioritize.

"We're working very closely with our fire department as well as public service staff to identify those streets that are not passable for fire or transit bus," Jones says, "those kinds of things."

In Bangor, City Manager Cathy Conlow says the storms are also testing the limits on snow plow drivers. "They're tired," she says. "So, you know, at first it's nice to have the work and the overtime, and then it gets pretty draining."

Farther north, the city of Caribou was spared the brunt of Monday's storm. But Director of Public Works David Ouellette says it was a much-needed reprieve after his plow crews battled wind that constantly pushed snow drifts back into roads.

"The last storm was probably 12 to 14 hours of plowing, and 34 to 40 hours for the wind," he says.

One bright side, if you can call it that, is that the storms don't seem to be straining local budgets - at least not yet. But if the onslaught continues, municipal officials say that could change.  The next batch of snow is expected on Thursday.