- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Powerful winds and heavy snow swept through Maine on Tuesday, prompting Republican Gov. Paul LePage to declare a state of emergency and forcing thousands of residents to stay home from work and school. Here’s what Maine residents need to know about the snowstorm:

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BURIED

Portland and Lewiston were the hardest hit with more than 20 inches of snow by Tuesday afternoon with the snow still falling, said John Jensenius, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray. Franklin County reported about 10 inches and Oxford County saw more than 14, he said.

Snow was expected to taper off Tuesday night, but the frigid temperatures aren’t going away. Most Mainers beginning to dig out Wednesday will be doing so in the single digits, and coastal residents will see gusts of 15 to 20 miles per hour, Jensenius said.

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“A WICKED STORM”

Jeff Russell of Scarborough spent Tuesday morning fighting a mounting snow drift outside his house that was threatening to cover one of his windows. Russell had been outside to shovel three times and the drift was still creeping toward the window, with snow still falling heavily.

“It’s a wicked storm,” Russell said, estimating his yard got a foot of snow and drifts of three to four feet. “I’ve seen a lot of them, I’m 57 years old, and this one’s pretty good.”

Farther north, Sierra Stevens was running through deserted downtown Gardiner on a mission to get soda from one of the only open stores. The 21-year-old University of Maine at Augusta student ventured out to see how bad the storm really was.

“I’ve never seen snow like this,” she said. “Everything is pretty much shut down.”

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FEW OUTAGES

Despite strong gusts of wind, just more than 600 utility customers were without power late afternoon on Tuesday. Susan Faloon, a spokeswoman for Emera Maine, said the biggest challenge was the wind, which makes it unsafe to put workers in bucket trucks to restore power.

“We’re being careful with that right now and just handling emergency situations - only restoration if it’s safe,” she said. “We’re asking people to be patient, because obviously we don’t want to put our crews at risk.”

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TREACHEROUS TRAVEL

Department of Transportation officials were seeing snow drifts on some roads in excess of 5 feet but were encouraged that most Mainers heeded advice to stay home, spokesman Ted Talbot said. All flights in and out of the Portland International Jetport and Bangor International Airport were canceled Tuesday, as were all ferries.

Travel by land, air and sea will remain difficult on Wednesday.

Bangor airport officials said it’s unclear when scheduled flights will be able to depart on Wednesday. Portland airport’s ticket counters will reopen on Wednesday, but operations will likely still be impacted by the snow. Maine State Ferry Service might not reopen on Wednesday, but the Downeaster train service between Brunswick and Boston will resume.

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CLOSINGS:

Hundreds of schools and businesses across Maine were closed Tuesday, including all state and legislative offices.

But not everyone was lucky enough to get a snow day.

Cyrena Touchton, who was shoveling outside the hardware store where she works in Gardiner, didn’t have a choice - she lives upstairs.

“It wasn’t like I could call in this morning and say I couldn’t make it,” she said.

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Whittle reported from Portland.


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