Portland park ranger Liz Collado does a wellness check Friday afternoon on Nick LaVoie, 31, who is living in a tent along the Riverton portion of the Portland Trails. “Whenever there is a big storm I do my best to make sure they are OK and prepared,” said Collado, who urged homeless people to take advantage of the warming shelters in the city. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

A dangerous and potentially record-setting cold front hit Maine on Friday, forcing most people to seek warmth at home or at libraries, community centers, churches and town halls. Forecasters warned that the wind chill could dip to 43 degrees below zero overnight Friday or early Saturday, a mark that hasn’t been reached in Portland since 1971.

In Portland, an overnight shelter for homeless people opened at the Salvation Army on Cumberland Avenue and the city’s park ranger visited areas where homeless people often camp Friday, checking in on them and directing them to places of warmth and shelter.

The ranger, Liz Collado, said she checked in on homeless people living in tents along the city’s Bayside Trail near Marginal Way and in Deering Oaks park. Some said they were thinking of seeking shelter and others were packing up to do so. But she said at least one man, in his late 20s, said he had made it through Thursday night’s cold and was pretty sure he could make it through Friday’s as well.

While temperatures had been in the teens and 20s Thursday night, they were expected to drop to 16 below zero in Portland overnight Friday, said Sarah Thunberg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray. The weather service advised Mainers to remain indoors Friday and Saturday, saying the expected extreme temperatures and wind chills can cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes.

“I’m really worried about him, so I’ll definitely have to go check on him again,” said Collado, the city’s supervising park ranger, Friday afternoon. “He said he had anxiety and didn’t want to go to a shelter.”

Some homeless people were taking advantage of the warming center set up at the First Parish Church on Congress Street in Portland on Friday afternoon. Gregory McLeod, 51, said he would have spent Friday outside if not for the warming center opening up. McLeod said he spends his nights at Milestone Recovery on India Street, but occupants are asked to leave every morning.


“When your options are slim, it’s only human to ask for help,” McLeod said.

James Clifford, 56, was playing game of spades with friends at the church warming shelter. Clifford, who lives outdoors near the Casco Bay Ferry Terminal, said he was appreciative of the church’s effort.

“It’s helping other people help themselves,” he said. Nonetheless, Clifford said he planned to spend Friday night outside, despite being offered $20 by a volunteer to stay in a shelter, because he does not like shelters.

Nick LaVoie talks to Portland park ranger Liz Collado on Friday afternoon. LaVoie said he had a small propane heater to help keep him and his girlfriend warm on a night authorities were advising Mainers to remain indoors if they could. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Despite temperatures that dipped below zero by 4 p.m. and a wind chill of 20 below zero, Portland was not a ghost town late Friday afternoon. People could be seen walking along Congress Street and in Monument Square. Some braved the cold without hats while others were so bundled as to only hint at a human form underneath. Most walked fast, almost jogging, and only a few wanted to stop to tell a reporter why they were out.


Herb Adams, a professor of history at Southern Maine Community College, was strolling through Monument Square to the bank, about a 10-minute walk from his home near downtown Portland. It was something he had to do, and being a life-long Mainer, he wasn’t going to let the cold stop him. He was wearing four layers of clothing and at least two coats with hoods, plus a COVID mask.


“This weather fits the typical and demanding Maine definition of wicked,” said Adams, 68.

Several Portland High School students were walking down Congress Street after school let out. Axel Townsend and Mina Fitzgerald, both 15, were waiting for a city bus near the Portland Public Library.

“It’s horrible, it’s pretty bad,” said Fitzgerald. As soon as she finished her thought, the bus pulled up and the two students walked into relative warmth.

James Clifford, 56, plays a game of spades with friends at a warming shelter at the First Parish Church on Congress Street in Portland on Friday. Clifford, who lives outdoors near Casco Bay Ferry Terminal, said he was appreciative of the church’s effort. “It’s helping other people help themselves,” he said. Nonetheless, Clifford said he does not like shelters and planned to spend Friday night outside, despite being offered $20 by a volunteer to stay in a shelter. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

At about 7 p.m. Friday, the overnight shelter at the Salvation Army had about 62 people, with a capacity of about 75, said Jessica Grondin, the city spokesperson. The city’s other shelters, including people sheltered at hotels, are averaging about 950 people a night recently, Grondin said.

Besides the overnight shelter at the Salvation Army gymnasium and the warming center at First Parish Church, the city also designated a warming center at the library. Most people there Friday seemed to be accessing library services and not coming in just to warm up.



Portland’s warming centers and shelters also were scheduled to be open Saturday as well. Warming centers opened Friday at libraries, fire stations, community centers and town halls all over southern Maine.

In York County, a warming center was set at up at the Saco Transportation Center, near the Biddeford line, Friday afternoon. John Hurrinus, 48, who is homeless, was the only occupant by midafternoon and said he appreciated the sanctuary. Without the center, he said, he would have to spend his time on the street or with friends if he could find someone to take him in. Hurrinus said he expected to stay at the center overnight, unless he could reach a friend and spend the night on her couch, as he had Thursday night.

On Saturday, the warming center will move to the Saco Community Center on Franklin Street and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Saco and Biddeford at 60 School St., also will be open to those looking to get out of the cold until Sunday at 8 a.m. Biddeford has a warming center open at the J. Richard Martin Community Center at 189 Alfred St. until 7 a.m. Monday.

Congolese immigrant Tutuma Selipa, 20, talks on the phone while waiting for the bus to her South Portland home, while bundled for frigid temps on Congress Street in Portland on Friday night. Having only been in the country four months she said “It is very much cold” She added that she had never experienced this but thought she would get used to it. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

The forecast called for the cold front to peak overnight Friday and early Saturday morning, with a predicted low of 16 degrees below zero in Portland, 18 degrees below zero in Augusta and 19 below zero in Lewiston, said Thunberg, at the National Weather Service in Gray. Temperatures were expected to be slightly higher southern York County, about 12 below zero. Wind gusts of 35 to 45 mph were expected.

Windchills overnight were expected to drop to 43 below zero for Portland and much of the state, but maybe only to 40 below in Biddeford and south, Thunberg said.

Thunberg said the ferocious cold would start to ease Saturday. Temperatures should be up to zero by about noon on Saturday in Greater Portland and much of southern Maine, and will continue to rise until reaching a high of about 9 degrees. But temperatures will rise overnight Saturday and on Sunday temperatures in southern Maine are expected to be in the mid- and high 30s, Thunberg said.


In northern Maine, the National Weather Service said temperatures in Caribou, Presque Isle and surrounding areas were expected to drop to 28 degrees below zero, with wind chill readings as low as 63 below.

More than two dozen schools across Maine either closed or released students early because of the cold Friday, but most were in Aroostook County.


The cold was causing power outages in some areas, with Central Maine Power reporting 4,901 customers without power in its southern and central Maine service area around 9 p.m., including 1,570 in Cumberland County and 1,840 in Franklin County. In an email to customers, CMP said that sub-zero temperatures and strong wind gusts caused the outages and that workers were prepared to respond and work in the dangerous cold.

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

In Lewiston, it was already 5 degrees below zero at 5 p.m. William Scanlan, 57,  shuffled into the relative warmth of the REST Center on Main Street. Shivering, he made his way through the crowded room, muttering a faint exclamation about the cold he had just escaped.

By then, there were already nearly two dozen people crowding the REST Center, men and women hauling rolls of supplies stuffed into trash bags or backpacks. He didn’t have a lot to carry. For six years he’s been homeless in Lewiston and for most of those years he’s been spending cold nights in hallways, stairwells – any place at all to get away from the harsh conditions.


But this weather? No way.

“It’s not even worth trying to stay out there in this kind of cold,” he said. “I’m sure glad they have places like this being opened up because nobody is going to survive out there.”

Staff Writer Ed Murphy, Staff Photographer Ben McCanna and Sun Journal Staff Writer Mark LaFlamme contributed to this story.


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