January 2

Arctic blast of snow, wind, cold moving into Maine on Thursday

The wind chill could make it feel like 15 to 25 below zero across much of the state, the weather service says.

By Kelley Bouchard kbouchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Maine’s first snowstorm of 2014 is expected to start during the morning commute Thursday and last into Friday, bringing gusting winds, extremely high tides and some of the coldest temperatures in the past several years, according to the National Weather Service in Gray.

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Joshua Parkin pushes snow off of the garage he works at on Monday after several inches fell overnight in Farmingdale.

The Associated Press

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Snow will be light and fluffy over a 24-hour period, with the possibility of near-blizzard conditions at times and overall accumulations ranging from a foot along the coast to a few inches inland, said meteorologist Eric Schwibs. Temperatures early Thursday will be in the single digits and teens across the state, but it will feel like 10 to 15 below because of the wind.

Those winds are expected to pick up Thursday afternoon and evening, Schwibs said. Overnight into Friday, temperatures will range from zero along the coast to 10 degrees below zero inland. But with consistent winds and occasional gusts to 35 mph, the wind chill will reach dangerous levels, making it feel like 15 to 25 degrees below zero across most of the state and 35 below in the mountains.

“We’ll be getting a fresh blast of arctic air,” Schwibs said Wednesday evening. “It’s going to be a spread-out event. Snow will be coming down at a light to moderate clip, but it will be fluffy, so it won’t be so bad.”

On the down side, Schwibs expects lots of blowing and drifting snow that could cause visibility problems, along with the potential for more power outages following last week’s ice storm, which cut electricity to more than 100,000 Mainers, some for more than a week.

The storm also will coincide with high tides late Thursday morning through Friday, with near-shore waves in the 12-foot range potentially causing coastal flooding and beach erosion in areas such as Portland and Biddeford.

As the storm winds down by noon Friday, extremely cold temperatures will continue through Friday night, with 30-below readings expected in the mountains – the lowest since 2011, according to the weather service.

Residents and emergency management officials throughout the Northeast were preparing Wednesday for the storm and extreme cold.

As much as a foot of snow or more was forecast for some areas in the Northeast overnight Thursday into Friday, and temperatures were expected to plummet, with highs in some areas just above zero, the weather service said.

“There will be travel problems,” said Hugh Johnson, a meteorologist in Albany, N.Y. “It will be very cold. You don’t want to be out in the stuff long unless you have the proper clothing.”

Up to 14 inches of snow is forecast for the Boston area and the weather service issued a blizzard warning for Long Island - where 8 to 10 inches of snow could fall and winds could gust up to 45 mph, according to the Associated Press.

New York City is likely to get 3 to 7 inches, and officials issued a snow alert Wednesday. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged the city’s commuters to leave their cars at home in case major highways are closed for Thursday’s evening rush hour.

Near-blizzard conditions were forecast for areas along the coast. The mayor of Bridgeport declared a state of emergency for Thursday, imposing special parking regulations so crews can plow.

In Rhode Island, Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s office, the state police, the state Department of Transportation and other state agencies held a conference call on New Year’s Eve to prepare for the storm. Officials said crews would be prepared to plow, sand and salt the roads or respond to any problems that may arise.

While the bulk of the snow was expected to hit southern New England and southern sections of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, the prospect of additional snow was welcome news for many areas farther north.

The Jackson Ski Touring Foundation in northern New Hampshire said the number of skiers during the first five days of Christmas vacation week increased 26 percent compared with last year.

“We seem to be in a sweet spot of snow,” executive director Thom Perkins said. “We’ve had a phenomenal season so far.”

In Maine, people seemed prepared for more winter weather.

Kelly St. Denis of Auburn was skiing Wednesday at the Sunday River ski area in Newry with family and friends. She said it’s been cold, but the skiing has been good.

“Hey, it’s winter in Maine,” she said. “We go with it.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

kbouchard@pressherald.com

Twitter: @KelleyBouchard

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