This weekend could be a slippery one with an 80 percent chance of freezing rain and sleet predicted for Maine’s Mid-coast area.

Meteorologist Tom Hawley at the National Weather Service Office in Gray said it’s uncertain yet if coastal areas will see any ice accumulation. He warned, however, that Saturday into Sunday morning it could be a “serious situation and people should take precautions.”

“Temperatures may stay warm enough at the coast to prevent icing,” Hawley said, “but it certainly looks like central Maine — Bangor to Waterville and Augusta to Fryeburg — will see some icing.”

According to Hawley, the path of an incoming cold front will determine the severity of the storm in different regions.

“We may see rain in Eliot, freezing rain from Portland to Brunswick, and snow up in Jackson,” Hawley said. “There’s going to be a lot of different weather happening in a small area; it’s that close.”

Conditions for an ice storm occur when warmer temperatures aloft cause rain to fall rather than snow. When this rain meets with below-freezing surface temperatures, it freezes on contact, causing ice to accumulate.

There is also a chance of ice pellets occurring, Hawley said, which happen when the falling rain freezes before it hits the ground.

Brunswick Public Works Director John Foster said the town uses both salt and sand to deal with icy roads, but as the temperatures drop, salt becomes less effective.

“If you get much below 20 degrees the effectiveness of the salt diminishes,” Foster said, “but it still works down to 13 degrees or so.”

The town uses what they call “sweetened sand,” which contains approximately 100 lbs sodium chloride per cubic yard, to keep the sand from clumping and freezing. Salt costs approximately $50 per ton, while sand is $8 per ton.

Sodium chloride, common table salt, acts as a freezing point depressant. The Department of Transportation uses a brine to “pre-wet” roads, lowering the temperature at which water would freeze on the surface.

Less salt is used in this anti-ice process, but Foster said most towns don’t yet have the capacity to pre-wet roads.

“Communities are coming toward that as the technology becomes more advanced and less expensive,” Foster said.

In the meantime, the message for the public is to stay safe, stock up on water and batteries, check or prepare alternative heat sources and avoid any unnecessary travel in winter storm conditions.

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