BAR HARBOR — Many Mount Desert Island residents criticized the state’s handling of roads during and after last week’s storm, since roads remained dangerously icy for several days.
“Last week’s blizzard proved particularly challenging in some MaineDOT crew areas, given the dynamic nature of the storm,” said Shawn Davis, transportation resource manager at the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT).
Davis said low temperatures ruled out using salt or a saltwater pretreatment on island roads. Instead, crews placed sand to increase traction, but it was quickly brushed off the roadway by traffic.
“Crews were out both Saturday and Sunday, applying salt, sand and attempting to remove ice buildup with plows and graders, but continuing low temperatures further proved challenging,” Davis told the Islander Monday. “Temperatures [Monday and Tuesday] are back in a range that will allow latent and newly placed layers of salt to work, and crews continue to remove ice from the roadways.”
Scott Wood, Bar Harbor’s highway superintendent, said that preparation for storms like these began back in July, and that crews get ready for each storm as it approaches.
“For every storm, [whether] it’s 4 inches or 2 feet, we double-check everything the night before,” Wood said. “We tell the [plow drivers] to get some sleep, and we go from there.”
The highway department’s budget is $1,049,339, which Wood said is calculated with five-year averages for salt use and snowfall. Even with this storm, Wood said that the budget was looking adequate for the rest of the fiscal year.
A storm surge — an abnormally high rise of water over the predicted tide level caused by strong winds in a storm — caused flooding around the island.
Matt Gerald reported that some of his land flooded for about three hours during the storm. He said water levels continued to rise even after the tide rolled out, causing some oyster growing gear to float away.
“Since 1999, I haven’t seen anything as high as that,” Gerald said. “It was above hip waders, around 30 or 40 feet [above the high tide line.]”
Adam Babbitt of Southwest Harbor reported flooding at his home on Mansell Lane. He said flooding did some damage to neighboring houses and left ice and sea vegetation in his yard.
“The road has flooded slightly before,” Babbitt said. “Usually ice-packs form and push against the houses on the ocean side of Shore Road, which has caused damage in the past.”
Lisa Morrissette of Dead River Company said crews have been busy meeting the high demand for heating oil through the low temperatures and snowstorms.
“Part of the demand is that home and business owners are using more [heating oil,]” Morrissette said. “We’re working nights and weekends; it’s all hands on deck.”
Oil companies also have emergency delivery systems set up for customers without heat after business hours.
Many local businesses announced closures ahead of the storm, including all of the MDI Hospital health centers.
MDI schools were closed Jan. 4. They delayed opening on Monday due to road conditions.
Cold temperatures also may have been a factor in a water main break near Newport Drive in Bar Harbor Friday. Water Division Superintendent Jeff VanTrump said the break was spilling 100 gallons per minute.