Blizzard's impact on Portland continues days after storm

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PORTLAND — After the weekend’s blizzard dumped 31.9 inches of snow on the city – shattering a 1979 record high for a single storm – the city will likely be cleaning up for the next couple weeks, Director of Public Services Mike Bobinsky said Monday afternoon.

Bobinsky and his department are shoveling out from a snowfall that prompted City Hall to issue city-wide or partial emergency parking bans for four consecutive nights.

In addition, bans were being posted along portions of 27 streets in the East and West ends Monday, as a mix of rain and several more inches of snow added insult to injury.

In those locations, which are marked with emergency signs, parking is restricted to one side of the street and will continue to be for several days.

“We try to use some judgement (in restricting parking),” Bobinsky said. “We realize we can’t sign off the entire peninsula.”

Most of the restricted streets are narrow, he said, and the addition of towering snow banks makes them impassable for emergency vehicles. Parking bans are inconvenient, but necessary in extreme snowfalls like this weekend’s storm, he added.

“Our snow removal was helped in large part by the parking bans. They were critical to our operations because they allowed us greater access to the city streets,” Bobinsky said. “The public gets it … they were very cooperative in complying, which we appreciate because we know (the bans) are inconvenient.”

The city towed 47 vehicles during Friday night’s parking ban, 25 on Saturday night, and about 15 during Sunday’s partial, Yellow Zone ban on parking downtown. Those are historically low numbers compared to the average of 100 or so vehicles usually towed during bans, according to Bobinsky.

He said that at the height of the storm, 115 public services employee were working in shifts as long as 16 hours to clear the snow. The city used 44 snow plows and other pieces of equipment, and several outside contractors.

Snow was taken to lots on Commercial Street, at the corner of Preble and Kennebec streets, and near the Portland International Jetport. The city also resorted to the unusual measure of piling snow in the median along Franklin Street.

Besides the public cooperation, Bobinsky credited good luck and the teamwork of firefighters, police and other emergency personnel for successfully dealing with the historic storm.

“Fortunately, we didn’t have downed wires or a major storm (tidal) surge,” he said. “And there was a lot of great planning, a very strong collaborative, in the city’s emergency management function. There’s a sense of unification, of helping one another.”

But not everyone was so fortunate.

The blizzard was blamed for at least 18 deaths across the Northeast and Canada, and disrupted electrical power to more than 600,000 households in the region.

In Portland, an unidentified man was rescued after he was swept off a city pier by near-hurricane strength winds early Saturday morning. And at Longfellow Books in Monument Square, the winds blew in a second-story window, causing a pipe to freeze and burst, raining water down on the bookstore below.

More than 30 percent of the store’s stock was destroyed, one of the shop’s co-owners, Chris Bowe, said Monday.

But Bowe said he hopes to reopen by Thursday night, when Longfellow is scheduled to host a benefit event for the Russian punk band Pussy Riot.

Nearly 200 supporters posted words of encouragement on the Longfellow Books Facebook page after the store, a longtime fixture in downtown Portland, was forced to close on Saturday.

“The support from the community has been amazing,” Bowe said.

Seth Koenig and Whit Richardson of the Bangor Daily News contributed to this report. William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.

Sidebar Elements

A sign at Longfellow Books in Monument Square on Monday announced the store’s closure after being damaged during the weekend blizzard.

A man charges through the untouched knee-deep snow in Monument Square in Portland, Saturday, Feb. 9, as a woman shields herself from the blizzard’s winds.

Snow-buried sidewalks on Free Street in Portland force cross-country skiers and walkers to take to the street on Saturday, Feb. 9.