BANGOR, Maine – All of Maine from Bangor north is under a blizzard warning Sunday evening as heavy snows and strong winds moved into the region in the afternoon.
The National Weather Service warned that the combination of falling and blowing snow will create whiteout conditions Sunday into Monday for much of the state. Snow could fall at a rate of 2 to 3 inches per hour at the height of the storm and wind gusts reaching 45 mph.
The season’s first Nor’easter is expected to dump anywhere from 10 to 24 inches on Maine, depending on the location. The Bangor area could see up to 18 inches while the area from Baxter State Park north to Houlton could get up to 2 feet of snow, according to the weather service.
The storm had moved into the Bangor area by about 1:30 p.m., and by 3 p.m. many roads were completely coated.
Forecasters warned that strong winds and cross winds could create dangerous conditions on open highways, and that blowing snow would hamper snow removal efforts and create deep drifts on unplowed roads.
“This is a classic Nor’easter,” said meteorologist John Cannon with the National Weather Service. “It’s got all the features.”
In addition to the snow, the state was also dealing with frigid temperatures, particularly in northern areas.
The temperature in Allagash early Sunday was 35 below. It hit 34 below in Van Buren and 29 below in Presque Isle. The lowest reading — 40 below zero — was recorded on the Big Black River in northwest Aroostook County.
Even before the storm arrived, municipalities enacted parking bans to make for easier plowing. Civic organizations, churches, sports leagues and other groups canceled events.
State government offices will be closed until at least noon on Monday, with the possibility of a full-day closure. Gov. John Baldacci’s office will announce whether state offices will open at all on Monday by 10 a.m.
In Bangor, an annual memorial service for the homeless was postponed until Monday, while several synagogues in the city canceled parties marking the first night of Hanukkah, Scores of public schools were expected to be closed on Monday.
The governor urged people to avoid all unnecessary travel.
An added twist to Sunday’s storm was the possibility of “thunder snow,” a relatively rare event where thunder and lightning occur during a snowstorm, Cannon said. Lightning was expected to light up the sky in places during the storm Sunday evening.
The storm was expected to clear out from south to north beginning late Sunday night through the day Monday.
Sunday’s storm was the second in three days to hit the state. On Friday, a storm dropped 6 to 10 inches of snow in much of southern Maine but spared northern sections.
BDN reporter Kevin Miller and The Associated Press contributed to this story.