It may be cold comfort, but as the snow starts to pile up tonight, Mainers can reflect that just three months ago, we were complaining about triple-digit heat.

Forecasters say we could wake up Sunday morning to as much as 3 to 5 inches of snow on the ground, although amounts could vary depending on the track of the storm. Officials with the National Weather Service said tonight’s snow is about a month ahead of the average date of the first snowfall of the season.

And this single storm could break the record for snowfall for the entire month, which is 3.8 inches, set in 1969.

James Brown, a meteorologist with the weather service in Gray, said snow may not accumulate on roads because asphalt tends to hold heat longer and the snow will probably melt on impact.

But snow will pile up on lawns and, more significantly, tree limbs. With many leaves still on the trees, the snow will have a greater surface area to cling to. And with temperatures around the freezing point tonight, that snow could be wet.

“That will create some weight, there will be some wind with this thing and that’s going to take some branches down,” possibly causing power outages, Brown said.

Central Maine Power Co. is telling crews to be ready to roll tonight and contacting utilities in Canada in preparation for calling their crews if power failures are widespread.

John Carroll, a spokesman for CMP, said the utility held a conference call Friday to discuss preparations and plans to hold two more today.

“It’s the sort of storm that causes problems for us — wet, heavy snow,” he said.

The storm will move off the southeast coast today, Brown said, and intensify as it heads north.

“We’ve got a good chunk of cold air that’s pressing down from Canada and and it (the storm) is going to get pulled right up the coast and throw the precipitation over the top of that cold dome of air and we’re going to get ourselves a little snowstorm,” Brown said. “That’s pretty much the definition for a nor’easter.”

Average date of first snow is not an official weather service statistic, so the Gray office’s records are incomplete. But from 1881 to 1997, the meteorologists kept track informally, and those records indicate the average first date for accumulating snow is Nov. 25, said Steve Capriola, another meteorologist with the weather service.

The snow is unlikely to stick around long, however, with high temperatures for next week forecast to range from the upper 40s to low 50s.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]