Municipal offices closed in advance of Monday’s blizzard and many other organizations and businesses remained closed as the swirling snow and slippery roads all but guaranteed employees would have a hard time getting to work, and customers would be few.

But a handful of businesses either couldn’t close or made a point to be open.

Working through it

At the Comfort Inn on Searsport Avenue, front desk worker Cathy Lozano recalled how she had planned to be at the hotel for a while, bringing changes of clothes and her laptop computer. When several regular staff weren’t able to make it to work, Lozano did what she could, working the kitchen, the dining room and the front desk to keep the hotel’s snowbound guests entertained.

“I hadn’t waitressed in a long time,” she said. “We just kind of winged it.”

A handful of convenience stores were open, serving one after another plow-fronted pickup truck and the occasional intrepid non-plower, but most other businesses were closed.

Even McDonald’s, a business that has succeeded by subverting nature, closed around 3 p.m. according to Manager Samson Cline.

And how were they able to stay open that long?

“We pay a lot of money for a plow,” he said. “I don’t think he left the lot for six hours. He just kept going around and around.”

Business at Waldo County General Hospital went smoothly despite the weather, according to Director of Operations Dan Bennett, who was the administrator on call Monday. The hospital has an emergency protocol for extreme situations like the ice storm of 1998, but Monday’s blizzard didn’t rise to that level.

Bennett said there were fewer staff working in some areas of the hospital but all the crucial departments were staffed, while the hospital’s remote physicians practices were open but had few customers.

A statewide concern

Central Maine Power crews battled accumulating snow and high winds while trying to restore power to more than 3,200 homes across Maine that remained without power as of 5 p.m. Monday. The number of outages rose briefly to 3,500 mid-morning, but crews restored power to nearly all customers by 1 p.m. The number of outages jumped to a peak of 4,000 in mid-afternoon as winds backed to the north-northwest. By 9:30 p.m. Monday night, the statewide outage figure was just over 360 households, and line crews worked to restore power to all customers by Tuesday morning, Dec. 28.

Sunday, Dec. 26, Gov. John E. Baldacci declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the severe weather event, and state government was shut down Monday, with only essential personnel reporting to work.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency advised the public to stay off the roads unless it was “absolutely necessary” to drive in an effort to make the job of clearing the snow easier for road crews.

Out on the streets

Belfast Police Chief Jeff Trafton said the good news about the blizzard is that it appeared to have kept many drivers off the roads.

“It hasn’t been too bad for us today,” Trafton said on Monday.

Trafton said he was concerned that there could have been a relatively high volume of calls concerning vehicle accidents on Tuesday, as he said the day after a storm is usually busier than the day of the storm itself. Trafton attributed that to a couple of factors, one being that more people would be on the slippery roads to return to work after many government offices, local businesses and colleges and universities were shut down due to the blizzard. Aside from there being more people out driving, Trafton said the salt and sand that remains in the road often creates slush, which makes it difficult for drivers to maintain control of their vehicles.

A check in with the Belfast Police Department and the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday morning, Dec. 28, however, indicated that drivers who were venturing out were proceeding with caution. No major accidents that were related to the storm were reported as of noontime Tuesday.

Road crews, however, stayed busy throughout the storm. The Belfast Public Works crew started plowing at 9:30 p.m. Sunday night, and plowed through the night.

Despite a busy 24-hour period for the local road crew, Belfast Public Works Director Bob Richards said the storm could have been worse.

“It wasn’t bad,” he said. “Conditions were not all that bad, not as bad they built it up.”