Blizzard hammers the Lake Region

A PLOW TRUCK DRIVER clears the ice from the windshield and wipers before returning to Route 302 to continue his snow removal job in the early afternoon on Tuesday. (De Busk Photo)

A PLOW TRUCK DRIVER clears the ice from the windshield and wipers before returning to Route 302 to continue his snow removal job in the early afternoon on Tuesday. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Caleb Ela and Sarah Paul braved the elements and the snowdrifts on Route 35 to get to the Umbrella Factory Supermarket to buy dog food.

“We were out of dog food,” she said. “We decided to get it now before the storm got worse,” he said.

The couple did not jump into a four-wheel-drive. Instead, around noon, they drove their compact car with summer tires onto the wintery roads to a nearby destination.

Luckily — as they had counted on — the local grocery store was open. So, they were able to pick up some chow for their pooch as well as extra edibles and apple cider for themselves.

They said it was pretty hairy getting out their driveway and Route 35 had its share of snowdrifts and unplowed areas.

The Umbrella Factory Outlet Supermarket, known to locals as Tony’s Foodland, was not only open, but Paul and Ela did not have to battle the crowds.

Very few customers navigated the aisles with grocery carts. The lights to the deli department had darkened, and staff was sweeping and mopping the floors in the middle of the day.

“It’s dead.” (When we were shopping) he said to me, ‘I’ve never seen it so dead in here,’” Paul said.

“No one wants to be out in this weather,” she said.

If it weren’t for a shortage of dog food in their home, they would have had no need to venture out. Paul works at The Village Donut Shop & Bakery in Raymond. She had the day off, even though the business was open earlier in the day. Ela is employed at Dunkin’ Donuts in Gray; and that New England establishment shuttered its coffee drive-through before the predicted blizzard started, he said.

The couple was just happy to be headed home to hunker down before the blizzard worsened.

Meanwhile, the Naples store at which they had just shopped was readying to close.

According to UFO Supermarket Store Manager Mike Fleck, “We have decided reluctantly to close at 1:30 (p.m.) to keep our employees safe. With the weather conditions, we need to close.”

“Very seldom do we close our store. A few years ago, we had to close because of weather,” he said.

“We try to stay open for our customers. If someone drives in from Otisfield, we want to be open for them,” he said.

Fleck admitted that Mother Nature had a hand in his decision-making.

Mother Nature also played a role in the closure of Maine’s post offices and the stoppage of all mail deliveries.

Town Offices and many other non-essential businesses decided in advance of the blizzard to stay closed and postpone meetings.

According to Casco Town Manager David Morton, he made the decision on Monday to cancel Tuesday’s Town Office hours as well as the Casco Board of Selectman meeting.

“In fact, most towns did,” he said. “I talked with the board chairman; (and we decided that) this storm was so significant, there was no use waiting and playing games,” he said of the postponement. The governor declared this blizzard a state of emergency, he said.

At the town office, the employees “got the day off. They’ll end up having to make up the work. There is full day’s work to make up during the next three days. The work doesn’t go away,” he said. “It’s just a good old-fashion Maine snowstorm,” he said.

Has Morton been out driving in this mess?

“Nope — that’s no place for anybody to be,” he said. “I have several trucks out there. The guys who are plowing, they plow one side of the road. Then, when they do the other side, they look over and the one side looks like they didn’t even plow it,” he said. “They are fighting to keep the main roads open,” he said.

“Fortunately, for everyone’s sake, there is not much traffic out and about,” he said. “Sometimes, the snowplows cannot see very well. It only takes one car stuck in the road to make a mess of things,” he said.

“They are having to stop and clear their windshields and clear the wipers,” he said. “It is not the amount. It is that it is blowing so hard and drifting so much,” Morton said, adding that in his yard some snow was a few inches deep while other areas measured mid-thigh.

The drifts are undeniable. Then, so were the weather predictions that preceded the storm by days.

According to Naples Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak, by midmorning on Monday, the clear-cut choice was to close the town office on Tuesday.

“It was very clear, it was very definite how much snow this storm was going to bring,” he said.

“I have been out today, and I had lunch with the (snow removal) contractor and things are going fine,” Paraschak said.

That status is in part to the public taking heed of storm warnings. “Pretty much everybody is off the road and staying home,” he said. “It is light, fluffy snow, which is a good thing. It obviously will take a lot of time to remove,” Paraschak said. “It could have been a lot worse,” he said.

It is not all that bad for some area students who have a new math problem. Not one but two days off from school.

By Tuesday evening, notices had been sent to parents of school-aged students that SAD 61 schools were closed on Wednesday.


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