Dangerous Arctic cold blasts Maine

Posted Jan. 14, 2009, at 11:12 p.m.

As a cold blast hit the state Wednesday, forecasters warned that wind chills could make it feel like 47 below zero in some parts of northern Maine overnight and Thursday.

Over the next few days, an Arctic cold front will move through the state, driving nighttime temperatures well below zero throughout the northern half of Maine. Even during the day, temperatures in Caribou will hover at about minus 8 on Thursday and Friday, according to the National Weather Service, and only slightly above zero in Bangor.

Friday night, temperatures are expected to drop as low as 23 degrees below zero in Bangor, minus 29 in Caribou and a mind-numbing minus 40 in Allagash. The record cold recorded in Bangor in January is minus 28, set in 1971.

Alerts issued by the Weather Service Wednesday warned residents of Aroostook and northern Penobscot and Piscataquis counties to be aware that wind combined with cold temperatures would create dangerous conditions for exposed skin.

Especially for the elderly and the very young, such frigid temperatures can pose a serious health risk. It also is an especially dangerous time for the poor, the homeless and the mentally ill. About 20 people die of hypothermia each year in Maine, including three or four who die in their homes.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that to prevent hypothermia people dress warmly and in layers, even inside. A cap or another light head covering will help conserve body heat. Infants should be kept in a room where the temperature is no lower than 61 degrees. Drinking warm fluids and eating regular balanced meals will help generate and maintain a healthy body temperature. If possible, keep at least one room of the house comfortably warm.

Wear a hat, scarf and gloves or mittens when outside. Physical activity will help keep people warm, indoors or out, but the Maine CDC warns against sweating and cautions against wearing sweat-dampened clothes.

Alcohol, caffeine and nicotine all cause heat loss and should be avoided, according to the Maine CDC. Certain medications may also increase the risk of hypothermia.

Symptoms of hypothermia include sleepiness, confusion and disorientation. Shivering, a bluish tint to lips and skin, slurred speech and poor coordination are other signs a person may have lost too much body heat. In severe hypothermia, shivering may not be present and the person may become unconscious.

If hypothermia is suspected, call 911.

Mainers also are warned against using propane heaters to warm their homes, as potentially fatal carbon monoxide fumes may result.

The very cold weather is expected to persist through the weekend, moderating only slightly on Sunday. Coastal temperatures will be somewhat less severe.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

mhaskell@bangordailynews.net

990-8291

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BANGOR — Free warming centers, 3:30-7 p.m. Wednesdays at Redeemer Lutheran church, 540 Essex St., 945-3166; and Thursdays, First United Methodist Church, 703 Essex St., 945-9567. There will be a soup dinner and community fellowship.

EAST MILLINOCKET — Town office basement kitchen and dining area, noon-4 p.m. Mondays.

JONESBORO — Jonesboro Warming Center, Jonesboro Union Church Chandler River Community Center, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 434-2112, 944-9773 or 483-2959, e-mail jonesborounionchurch@verizon.net.

KNOX COUNTY — For information, call Knox County Emergency Management at 594-5155; Knox Regional Communications at 593-9132; or 211 for the state information line.

MILLINOCKET — Stearns Assisted Living Center, 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

TRESCOTT — Cobscook Community Learning Center, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday; 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 733-2233, www.thecclc.org.

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