An unexpectedly heavy nor’easter is covering southern Maine and much of the Northeast with light, dry snow.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Margaret Curtis says snow is falling in southern Maine at a rate of well more than an inch an hour — between two and four inches an hour, in some areas.
“This is a very small area that’s seeing these really intense rates, and certainly for anyone who’s thinking of traveling, our advice would be to stay home and if at all possible, once you get over an inch an hour the plows have trouble keeping up,” she says. “This is a light, fluffy snow so at least it’s got that going for it.”
Parts of York County are expected to get the most snow, she says — one or two feet. The weather service is expecting 12-18 inches in Portland, more than a foot between Lewiston and Augusta and 6-12 inches along the midcoast. Curtis says the storm should wind down around dusk.
The Maine Department of Transportation is urging people to stay off the roads as road crews try to keep up.
“Our crews work hard, they drive big heavy plow trucks, and there’s not always great visibility in this weather and in large vehicles. So if people absolutely do have to go out, we ask that they give our plow trucks space, and that they be patient with us,” says DOT spokesperson Paul Merrill.
Merrill says there have been a few spin offs, in Falmouth, Gorham and Kennebunk.
To make sure plow trucks are on on duty this winter, he says the DOT has a contingency plan in case one, two or three plow truck locations have to quarantine because of exposure to COVID-19.
He says the DOT has a plan if plow crews are temporarily diminished because of COVID-19. Crews are organized around specific locations, called “camps.”
“With our contingency plan in place, we feel like it would take three full camps of crew workers being affected by COVID or exposure before the general public would start to notice any sort of reduction in plow service,” Merrill says.
He says the plan could involve using people who don’t usually drive plows but have the right licenses, redistributing crews and, if at least three camps are affected, reprioritizing roads.