Gov. Janet Mills ordered all state offices to close Friday in anticipation of a winter storm that is expected to bring heavy rainfall, high winds, coastal flooding and freezing temperatures into Maine just two days before Christmas.

“We want to be sure that Maine people are safe heading into the holiday weekend,” Mills said in a statement Thursday evening. “I continue to strongly urge folks to prepare for this storm, to take precautions, especially when traveling, and to check in on your family, friends and neighbors.”

Mills’ decision to shut down the state offices serves as a harbinger of the potential damage this particular storm could cause.

The National Weather Service in Gray is forecasting wind gusts at or above 60 mph with the strongest winds expected along the coast. Wind gusts could reach up to 70 mph in the Rockland area, coming close to a hurricane force wind gust, which is 74 mph or higher.

“We are expecting there will be (power) outages,” weather service meteorologist Jerry Coombs said. The weather servce issued a high-wind warning Thursday that will remain in effect from 1 a.m. Friday through 2 a.m. Saturday.

Central Maine Power says it is prepared to respond to widespread power outages. CMP told News Center Maine that restoration of power could take multiple days, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.


Adam Desrosier, CMP’s vice president of electric operations, said the utility company has more than 300 contractor crews and 220 tree crews from Canada and as far south as Georgia in position to respond to power outages. Many of those crews remained in Maine after helping restore power during last weekend’s storm.


Forecasters are calling for temperatures in the 50 degree range for most of Friday. But a sharp drop in temperatures Friday night, after winds start to subside, has emergency responders and forecasters worried.

“The temperatures will drop very quickly Friday,” Coombs said, adding the Portland area temperatures could plunge into the low single digits Friday night into Saturday. Such a significant drop could lead to a flash freeze, meaning that water in low lying areas and on roads will freeze over making travel on Saturday morning, Christmas Eve, treacherous.

Wind chill also will be a factor on Saturday, though it won’t be as windy. It may feel like it’s 3 degrees in Portland and 8 degrees below zero in Rangeley.

Heavy rain and snow melt in the western sections of Maine will begin late Thursday night, leading to the potential for widespread flooding and road closures. Precipitation will begin as snow in the mountains before changing to rain late Friday morning. It will rain most of the day.


Rainfall totals will vary across the state. Portland could see two inches of rain, while inland areas could see anywhere from 2.5 to 4 inches of rain. Rivers could flood as a result of the snow melt caused by such heavy rainfall.

Coastal flooding is another major cause of concern. The weather service said an unusually high astronomical tide along with storm surge will cause moderate to major coastal flooding. Large waves and strong seas will make it dangerous to be in a boat on the ocean.


“There is a lot going on with this storm system,” Coombs said.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency urged Mainers on Thursday to prepare for the impact of a major winter storm by removing objects in their yard that could become airborne. Those objects include holiday decorations, shovels, and garbage cans on decks and porches.

“Now is the time to prepare for this major storm,” MEMA Director Peter Rogers said. “Many folks will be traveling for the holidays in the next few days so plan ahead and be safe. We all need to be prepared for the possibility of a multiday response.”


Warming centers will be opening in several Maine counties Friday. MEMA identified three warming centers on its website Thursday evening, including the South Portland Community Center on Nelson Road, which opens at 6 a.m. Friday; the Naples town office; and the Lovell fire station. To find a location near your home, you can also dial 2-1-1.

Storms packing heavy rains often cause flooding along Portland’s Commercial Street as well as areas such as East Bayside. The city will barricade streets that are flooded, city spokesperson Jessica Grondin said.

“The public is urged to pay attention to these barricades and not drive through flooded streets as it could damage your vehicle and cause extra calls for service to first responders,” Grondin said in a written statement.

Friday’s trash and recycling collection in Portland will occur as scheduled, but if weather conditions make travel unsafe for crews, collections could be canceled, Grondin said. In that situation, residents are being asked to hold their trash items until next week.

Though emergency response agencies are taking the storm seriously, the Westbrook Police Department attempted to poke a little fun at the havoc it may cause.



“It looks like the Grinch is making a visit to Westbrook and the State of Maine tonight and tomorrow,” Westbrook police wrote in a Facebook post. “Unfortunately, we do not have jurisdiction to stop what him and Mother Nature have brewing for us.”

On a more serious note, Westbrook police asked that residents not call the dispatch center or 9-1-1 to report a power outage or to ask when their power might be restored.

“Our phone lines will be ringing off the hook during the storm, we can’t have them tied up by people saying they’ve lost power or inquiring when they are going to get power back. Central Maine Power is who you should be contacting,” police said.

CMP customers should call 800-696-1000 to report an outage and to find out when their power could be restored.

Winter storms across the country have already disrupted holiday travel. According to FlightAware, a website that provides real time flight information, more than 1,200 flights were canceled Thursday and close to 400 flight delays have been reported.

The Portland Jetport tweeted Thursday that six flights scheduled for Friday have been canceled due to winter weather in several flight destinations. The jetport advises fliers to contact their airline for more current flight information.

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