A motorist drives through a snow storm in Durham, Maine, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016. A nor'easter is expected to drop 12 to 18 inches of snow on parts of Maine.
A motorist drives through a snow storm in Durham, Maine, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016. A nor'easter is expected to drop 12 to 18 inches of snow on parts of Maine.

PORTLAND, MAINE - The most powerful nor'easter in nearly two years brought heavy snow, powerful winds and even thunder and lightning to northern New England, leaving tens of thousands of people in the dark Friday and burying some towns under 2 feet of snow.

More than 100,000 homes and businesses in Maine were without electricity at the storm's peak, and residents were warned that it could take days to restore service. The National Weather Service received reports of snow falling at up to 6 inches per hour.
 “It went from just a garden-variety, low-pressure system to a turbocharged storm,” meteorologist Eric Schwibs said.

Unexpected thunder

In Brunswick, resident Jason Weymouth went to bed with a sense of dread as powerful thunderclaps accompanied the falling snow.

“It hit over the house, and it was pretty loud and very strong and very unusual. That set me a little bit on edge,” he said.

By Friday morning, he was among the thousands of Maine residents without power. Compounding his misery: His snowblower was unable to cope with the heavy snow and his wood-carving shop was knocked offline for the day.

The storm's fury walloped some places and skipped others as powerful bands of snow buried some communities while others just miles away received mostly rain.

Fatal car crash

Hundreds of cars slid off roads from the beginning of the storm on Thursday through Friday morning, when the sun appeared. In Vermont, a 69-year-old man was killed in Cornwall when his car went off the road in slippery conditions Thursday and crashed into a tree, state police said.

In Maine, the storm was believed to have contributed to a fatal fire in the town of Pownal. The victim's power had gone out, and investigators suspect he was using an alternative heat source when he died early Friday.

The heavy snow knocked down power lines and tree limbs. In Orono, the domed structure used by student-athletes at the University of Maine athletic complex collapsed under the weight.

Southern and western Maine turned out to be in the storm's bull's-eye, but the storm played a game of hopscotch, pummeling some communities with snow while leaving others just miles away drenched in rain.

Theo Bradeen, 5, of reacts to the cold as he disem
Theo Bradeen, 5, of reacts to the cold as he disembarks from a ferry after a ride from his home on Peaks Island to Portland, Maine, Dec. 16, 2016.


27 inches of snow

In Cumberland County, Portland received 7.7 inches of snow while Standish was buried under 27 inches of snow, Schwibs said.

Other big snow totals in Maine included 27 inches in Naples, 25 inches in Parsonsfield and 22.7 inches in Hollis. Snow in New Hampshire peaked at around 17 inches in several towns near the Maine border.

New Hampshire and Vermont were largely spared significant damage and power outages. The power company Eversource said about 11,000 New Hampshire homes lost power, but most got it back by Friday morning.

The nor'easter's barometric pressure reading was expected to close in on readings from a crippling storm on Valentine's Day 2014, a storm that canceled flights, knocked out power and claimed more than two dozen lives on the East Coast.
More snow expected

Because of the power outage Friday, the National Weather Service couldn't immediately provide a comparison of the two storms.

More snow was forecast for New Year's Eve, providing incentive for people to get busy cleaning up before more snow began falling.

Portland resident Richard Haynes found out the hard way that the icy conditions were hazardous. He slipped Thursday night and ended up in the emergency room. But that didn't keep him from digging out Friday.

“It caught us off-guard,” he said Friday as he shoveled snow. “I almost broke my back, had to get it checked at the hospital before I started shoveling.”