Stanley Holmes, 32, talks about being homeless in Portland with extreme cold weather approaching at the end of the week. “Sometimes I will walk around and feel so alone,” he said while becoming emotional on Wednesday, on Oxford Street. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The city of Portland will open a temporary shelter Friday and Saturday nights as Maine braces for a blast of arctic cold that could create dangerously cold wind chills far below zero this weekend.

“It’s going to be very cold,” said Hunter Tubbs, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Gray. “People should stay inside or dress for the weather. It can definitely be dangerous if you’re not prepared.”

High temperatures early Friday will be in the single digits and low teens along the coast, and just below zero in northern Maine and the mountains.

By early Friday evening, temperatures across the state will drop to near or below zero and winds will pick up to between 30 to 35 mph – creating wind chills of up to 40 or 50 degrees below zero in northern Maine and 30 to 40 below zero further south, Tubbs said.

Temperatures will continue decreasing Friday night into Saturday morning, reaching 20 to 30 degrees below zero in the north. Most other parts of the state will wake up to temperatures 10 to 20 below zero and warm up to the single digits or low teens.

“The bitter cold combined with gusty winds will likely lead to widespread dangerously cold wind chills beginning as early as Thursday night in
the mountains and Friday afternoon to the south,” the weather service said in a winter weather advisory for Maine on Wednesday. “The exact timing and magnitude of the worst cold may continue to fluctuate slightly over the next couple of days, but at least a portion if not all of the watch area is expected to see dangerously cold wind chills.”


The forecast prompted Portland to open the emergency shelter at the Salvation Army’s gymnasium at 297 Cumberland Ave. The shelter, which will be staffed by the city along with community partners and volunteers, will be available from 3 p.m. to 8 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

The emergency shelter will be open to everyone, including those who are barred from the city’s Oxford Street Shelter. That includes Rick Logan, who was contemplating what to do Wednesday afternoon before the city’s announcement. “It’s kind of a shock being outside at night,” said Logan, 67, who stayed in a tent Tuesday night.

The city also will provide its regular day shelter space for clients at the Oxford Street Shelter and Family Shelter.

Rick Logan, 67, who is homeless, rests in a doorway on Preble Street in Portland on Wednesday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“While our shelters remain at capacity, we recognize the urgent need for those who are without shelter in these extreme temperatures,” interim City Manager Danielle West said in a statement.

“We are thankful for city staff from across several departments who have answered our call, as well as the assistance of our community partners and volunteers to ensure that this life-saving measure is taken during this weather emergency.”

The Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency has announced close to a dozen warming centers, including First Parish Church and the downtown branch of the Portland Public Library in Portland.


Most of the warming shelters will be open only during daytime hours, though the town of Cumberland will keep its council chambers at Town Hall open from noon Thursday through 8 a.m. Monday.

“I think our town manager just wants to make sure, especially if people have a house that isn’t as warm as it should be or if they don’t have power, that they have an option,” said Whitney Miller, the town’s director of communications.

Community groups also have been collecting supplies and winter camping gear to distribute to people who are homeless and sleeping outside, and many were pushing for an overnight shelter before the city’s announcement.

Guadalupe Hernandez, 51, takes shelter in a tent while her husband sleeps on Wednesday. The couple came from Colorado to work in Maine, she said. They have been sleeping in a tent for two months. “It has been like hell”, said Guadalupe. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“The situation is dire,” said Terri McGuire, a member of Hustlin4theUnhoused, a group of outreach workers, clinicians and others who have been checking on homeless people.

Maine Needs, which provides clothing, hygiene products and household items to people in need, has purchased gift cards so local outreach groups can access propane heaters for their clients, and has been distributing hand warmers “by the thousands,” said Tara Balch, the group’s communications director.

“Providers have been treating frostbite since October and we can’t imagine how bad it will be following this weekend,” Balch said in an email.


Tubbs, from the National Weather Service, said the temperatures expected this weekend can easily cause frostbite very quickly. “It’s definitely something we want people to be aware of,” he said.

But not everyone is.

Outside Portland’s Oxford Street Shelter Wednesday, Stanley Holmes said he didn’t know about the upcoming drop in temperatures. Holmes, who doesn’t have a phone, said he has been sleeping either at the shelter or on the street lately, and he wasn’t sure what his plans are for this weekend.

“My first option is to try and get a bed at the shelter,” said Holmes, 32. “My second option, I don’t know. When you’re homeless, it’s not a preplanned thing. It’s by the moment.”

Stanley Holmes, 32, talks Wednesday about being homeless in Portland with extreme cold weather approaching at the end of the week. “My first option is to try and get a bed at the shelter,” Holmes said. “My second option, I don’t know. When you’re homeless, it’s not a pre-planned thing. It’s by the moment.” Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Portland was housing about 950 people on a nightly basis as of last week, but more are sleeping outside or on the street.

A city park ranger was out checking on people staying in tents along the Bayside Trail on Wednesday, warning them of the coming cold weather and handing out flyers with information for warming centers and the St. Vincent DePaul Soup Kitchen.


One of those people, Guadalupe Hernandez, said she and her husband have been living outside for about two months after arriving in Maine from Colorado. “It’s been like hell,” said Hernandez, 51. She said they have hand warmers and lots of blankets in their tent, but she’s nervous about the weather.

“We’re going to at least try to get in (to the Oxford Street Shelter),” Hernandez said.

The weather also will be a challenge for people who have to work outside, though some take it in stride.

Guadalupe Hernandez, 51, takes shelter in a tent on Wednesday. She said she and her husband have hand warmers and lots of blankets in their tent, but she’s nervous about the weather. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“We have to work outside no matter what,” said John Taylor, a lineman for Phoenix Communications, who was working on a project on Park Avenue on Wednesday. Taylor said he was only in Maine for the night and would be working in Connecticut this weekend, where it also is expected to be extremely cold.

“Layers,” Taylor said when asked if he takes any extra precautions in the cold. “Right now I’m wearing four layers. Saturday I’ll have two more.”

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