January 3

Storm brings extreme winds, bitter cold to Maine

And it’s only going to get worse as Maine endures a storm that combines close to a foot of snow, whipping winds and the harshest deep freeze in decades.

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

and Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Weather forecasters said late Thursday night that heavy snow and strong winds would create blizzard conditions overnight in southern Maine and that the region would have as much as a foot of new snow by Friday morning.

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Two of the dozens of slide-offs on southern Maine roads are seen here along the northbound lane of I-295 on the Portland/South Portland line Thursday.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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A vehicle sits upside down after spinning out of control on Interstate 295 in Portland during Thursday’s snowstorm. Numerous accidents were reported on Maine roads throughout the day because of bad driving conditions, but none was serious.

The Associated Press/Robert F. Bukaty

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THE COLD AT A GLANCE

Portland’s high temperature Thursday – just 12 degrees – set a record for the coldest high temperature ever on Jan. 2. The previous record was 13 degrees, set in 1968.

By 9 p.m. Thursday, the temperature in Portland was 5 degrees below zero. The lowest temperature ever for the date is 17 degrees below zero, in 1968. The lowest temperature recorded in Portland for any date is 39 below, on Feb. 16, 1943.

Caribou set a record for the date – 28 degrees below zero at 6:54 a.m. That broke the previous record of 20 degrees below zero, set in 1968.

Portland had received just over 6 inches of light, fluffy snow by 9 p.m. Thursday, while Old Orchard Beach and Standish each had 7 inches.

A blizzard is defined by meteorologists as a snowstorm with sustained winds of at least 35 mph and visibility of less than a quarter-mile for three hours or more.

“It’s pretty darn close now,” James Brown, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Gray, said just after 9 p.m. Thursday. “It will become a blizzard overnight.”

The storm, which began Thursday morning, also brought some of the coldest weather that Maine has seen in years.

The temperature in Portland was 5 degrees below zero at 9 p.m. – the low for the day to that point – with a wind chill of minus 26.

Brown said the high temperature for the day was just 12 degrees, at 12:01 a.m. That set a record for the coldest high temperature on Jan. 2. The previous record, 13 degrees, was set in 1968.

And after that cold start Thursday, the temperature only fell, without setting any other records.

The lowest temperature in Portland for the date is 17 degrees below zero, in 1968. The lowest temperature recorded in Portland for any date is 39 below, on Feb. 16, 1943.

In far northern Maine, Caribou set a record for the date – 28 degrees below zero at 6:54 a.m. Thursday. That broke the previous record of 20 degrees below zero, set in 1968.

Brown said the weather service issued a wind chill advisory Thursday, effective through 1 p.m. Friday. He said it’s “dangerous” for anyone without proper clothing to be outdoors in such conditions.

Forecasters say the mercury could dip to 30 to 35 below Friday night in the mountains and in parts of northern Maine.

Thursday’s bitter cold, high winds and snow prompted state offices to close early, forced dozens of schools to cancel their first day back from vacation and grounded some flights out of the Portland International Jetport.

The storm followed a prolonged ice storm that crippled parts of coastal and central Maine last week, leaving more than 120,000 customers without power, many for several days. Thursday’s high winds caused much of the snow to blow and drift, decreasing visibility and creating the potential for more power outages.

Gail Rice, a spokeswoman for Central Maine Power Co., said crews were more concerned Thursday about the high winds than the snow, which was expected to remain light and fluffy. CMP reported 124 power outages just before 10 p.m. Thursday, almost all of them in Knox County.

Bangor Hydro Electric Co., which spent about a week restoring power in central and eastern Maine after last week’s ice storm, reported just four outages at 10 p.m.

Some relief is expected on Saturday, with temperatures in the teens. Portland could get temperatures in the 20s on Saturday, the 30s on Sunday and the 40s on Monday, before dropping again to single-digit lows on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Thursday’s storm coincided with high tides late Thursday morning, with near-shore waves in the 12-foot range. In Portland’s Bayside neighborhood, standing water was seen in several areas, including in front of the Whole Foods supermarket on Somerset Street.

Public schools in Portland, Gorham and Cape Elizabeth were among many in southern Maine that were closed Thursday, and more closures are likely for Friday. Portland had canceled Friday’s classes by Thursday night, and the city imposed a citywide on-street parking ban until 6 a.m. Friday.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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A crash in Falmouth slowed drivers during Thursday morning’s commute on I-295.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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Jeremy Kempton shovels snow on a sidewalk along Commercial Street in Portland on Thursday. More than a foot of snow was predicted for coastal areas.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

 


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