Mike Elovitz of Portland walks along Brown Street as temperatures fall on Friday. Elovitz said he wasn’t bothered by the cold and began his day by walking along the Eastern Promenade. “I’m leaning into it,” he said. “I’m digging it.” Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Portland and the rest of the state are facing once-in-a-generation, dangerously low temperatures Friday night into Saturday morning, a blast of Arctic air so harsh that the National Weather Service on Thursday advised Mainers to remain indoors Friday and Saturday.

Portland’s actual temperature Friday night could drop to as low as 20 degrees below zero, meteorologist Sarah Thunberg said. Add in strong wind gusts, and the wind chill will make it feel like 43 below. Such extreme temperatures can cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes.

If the forecast proves accurate, Portland will see its lowest temperatures since Jan. 19, 1971, when the wind chill was 43 below zero. On Dec. 14, 2016, the wind chill in Portland dropped to 31 below, Thunberg said.

Most of the state will experience brutal cold from Friday through Saturday. The weather service issued a wind chill warning Thursday that will be in effect from 10 a.m. Friday through 1 p.m. Saturday.

“The wind chills have the potential to be once in a generation cold late Friday into early Saturday,” the National Weather Service said in its warning. “Avoid outside activities if possible. When outside, make sure you wear appropriate clothing, a hat and gloves. Persons are urged to stay indoors until conditions improve.”

Thunberg recommends that anyone driving have a full tank of gas, as well as an extra blanket and a fully charged cell phone, in case the vehicle breaks down.


“These are dangerous conditions,” she said.

Water vapor condenses in the frigid air as Asa Winter of Peaks Island exhales while disembarking the Machigonne II ferry with fellow passenger on Friday after the 7:15 a.m. run to Portland. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Gov. Janet Mills urged Mainers to be cautious this weekend.

“Temperatures this weekend will be extremely – and dangerously – cold across the state,” Mills said in a statement. “Please take extra precautions, be careful if you go outside, and be sure to check on your family, friends and neighbors to make sure they are okay.”

The city of Portland will open and staff its emergency shelter at the Salvation Army’s gymnasium at 297 Cumberland Ave. from 3 p.m. to 8 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. The city also will provide its regular day shelter space for clients at the Oxford Street Shelter and Family Shelter.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency has provided a list of warming and charging centers in various cities and towns that will be open during the deep freeze. You can visit MEMA’s website to find a location near you or you can call 2-1-1 for information about warming centers and emergency heating assistance.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in an interview with the Press Herald cautioned that the extreme cold poses a serious risk.

“Stay inside if you can,” Shah said. He said if you must go out, cover exposed skin and limit the amount of time spent outside. Frostbite can set in within minutes, not hours, Shah said.

Hypothermia poses another risk, especially for people who are not dressed properly, according to Shah. Hypothermia can set in within 20 to 30 minutes.

“Hypothermia can set in quickly. It doesn’t take getting lost in the woods and wandering around for hours,” Shah said. “The insidious thing about hypothermia is it causes confusion and people may not even know that they are suffering from hypothermia.”

Sunday promises to bring warmer temperatures to the Portland area with the high expected to be around 37 degrees.

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