Wind-whipped snow makes driving treacherous

Kathy McCarty, Special to The County
17 years ago

    PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – Windy conditions, combined with Friday night’s snowfall, made for treacherous driving conditions for motorists Feb. 3.

    The Presque Isle Police Department responded to several calls of vehicles off the road in the Presque Isle area on Saturday. The most serious involved three vehicles off the Houlton Road just south of the overpass.
Peter J. Merz, 34, of Bangor, was traveling south in his 2000 Toyota when he lost control of his car on a snow-drifted section of road. His vehicle crossed the centerline, into the path of a northbound 2005 Dodge Caravan driven by Terrina M. Nicholson, 50, of Medway. The two vehicles collided. The impact sent both off opposite sides of the road, with the van to the east and car to the west, landing in a snowbank just a few feet from a utility pole. A third vehicle, driven by an unidentified motorist, went off the east side as well.
Presque Isle police received word of the accident around 12:11 p.m., with Sgt. Eric Erickson and Officer Kevin Schumacher responding. The Presque Isle Fire Department and Crown Ambulance also reported to the scene.
Merz and his son were trapped in their car until emergency crews were able to free them using hydraulic equipment. Both were transported to The Aroostook Medical Center for treatment of non life-threatening injuries. Merz was wearing his seatbelt and his son was secured in a safety seat. The son was treated and released. The father was admitted but has since been discharged.
Nicholson received a minor leg injury and was treated at the scene by emergency personnel. Her daughter, Kristen Nicholson, 18, was not injured. Both parties were wearing their seatbelts.
Police did not indicate if there were injuries involved with the third vehicle off the road.
Nicholson’s van sustained approximately $10,000 in damage, while Merz’s car was totaled as the result of the accident. No estimate of damage was given on the third vehicle. No charges were made in relation to the accident.
Cowett’s Towing Service was called to pull one vehicle out of the snow and to tow the Merz vehicle. Jerry’s Towing was called to remove the remaining vehicle.
Earlier that day, Juanita Wiggins, 67, of Houlton, found herself off the Houlton Road near a self-storage facility. Sgt. Laurie Kelly, of the PIPD, responded to a call around 10:17 a.m. reporting the woman off the road. No one was hurt and Wiggins’ vehicle sustained no damage. Jerry’s was called to tow the vehicle.
Blowing snow and poor visibility continued to cause trouble for motorists as the day progressed.
At 1:30 p.m. the PIPD received a call from the Maine State Police dispatcher reporting a car off Route 10, heading toward Easton. Officer Kevin Schumacher responded to find Mrs. Darrell Spooner, of Castle Hill, had left the road and had made slight contact with a utility pole. She was uninjured and the vehicle sustained no damage. Arrangements were made to have the vehicle pulled back on the road.
At 1:58 p.m., Maine State Police called the PIPD to advise a white Ford Taurus was stuck in a snowbank just south of the overpass on the Houlton Road. Sgt. Eric Erickson responded to find the car in the snow on the northbound side of the road, just feet away from the site of the three-car accident earlier in the day. The roadway in that particular area was snow-covered, with winds gusting snow across the road making nearly white-out conditions. No one was injured and the car sustained no damage. TA Service was contacted to pull the vehicle out.
At 5:56 p.m. the PIPD received a call reporting a car had gone off the Caribou Road about three miles north of the Aroostook Centre Mall. The car, registered to Susan Hovey, of Presque Isle, was being driven by Curtis Alley, 19, of Sullivan. Alley reported the accident had happened when he and some friends, including Travis Hovey, Susan’s 18-year-old son, were returning home around 5 a.m. Unable to find someone to pull them out, they left the car. Sgt. Eric Erickson responded and advised the car narrowly missed striking a utility pole. Travis Hovey was advised to make arrangements to move the vehicle no later than Sunday. There were no injuries, no damage to the car or the pole.
Chief Naldo Gagnon advises motorists to use caution when driving, taking into consideration weather and road conditions. When visibility is reduced, driving speed should be reduced as well. Allow extra time for reaching your destination and give plenty of space between your vehicle and the one in front of you.