BANGOR, Maine — Maine Gov. John Baldacci declared a state of emergency Sunday afternoon and ordered that state government shutter its doors Monday in anticipation of a blizzard predicted to dump between 10 and 15 inches of snow in every corner of Maine, with snow sometimes falling at a rate of 1 to 3 inches an hour.
The governor urged Maine residents to remain at home.
“The National Weather Service is warning of extremely dangerous conditions,” Baldacci said in his announcement shutting down state offices. “The best advice is to avoid all unnecessary travel, to stay off the roads and allow road crews and emergency responders to do their work.”
NWS officials issued a blizzard warning for most of the state Sunday and said they expected the storm to hit Maine’s midcoast region and southern Penobscot County between 10 p.m. and midnight Sunday, then head northward. Snow was expected to reach Aroostook County about dawn.
Sustained winds of between 20 and 30 mph were predicted with gusts of 40 to 45 mph in the state’s interior and up to 50 mph along the coast, according to the National Weather Service in Caribou.
Temperatures Monday were expected to range from the mid- to upper 20s inland and the low 30s along the coast. Flooding along the coast also was possible in southern Maine.
Snowfall was expected to be heaviest along the coast, meteorologist Mike Doody said Sunday afternoon, with blowing and drifting snow expected to make travel extremely hazardous.
The blizzard was expected to last 20 to 24 hours before moving on into Atlantic Canada. The heaviest snowfall was forecast for the coast with less snowfall — 6 to 11 inches — predicted for the St. John Valley.
Snow started falling around New York City late Sunday morning, by which time nearly 1,000 flights out of the region’s three major airports already had been canceled in anticipation of the storm. More cancellations were expected.
Most flights in and out of Bangor International Airport on Sunday were canceled because of blizzard conditions between Washington, D.C, and Boston. Monday’s flights to New York City had been canceled as of 5 p.m. Sunday, while flights to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Florida were listed as departing on time on BIA’s website.
Amtrak canceled rail service between Boston and Portland as a result of what was called a major winter storm. Bus companies also canceled routes up and down the East Coast, affecting thousands of travelers. Concord Trailways canceled Monday’s routes in Maine and New Hampshire. A decision about whether Greyhound buses would be running in Maine had not been made as of 6 p.m. Sunday.
The Maine Emergency Management Agency advised drivers to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary. Strong winds, low visibility, blowing and drifting snow will make for extremely dangerous, life-threatening whiteout conditions, according to the weather service.
The monster storm is the result of a low pressure system off the North Carolina coast and was strengthening as it moved northeast Sunday, according to the weather service.
Travel misery began a day earlier in parts of the South, which was hit with a white Christmas for the record books. Columbia, S.C., had its first significant Christmas snow since weather records first were kept in 1887. Atlanta had just over an inch of snow — the first measurable accumulation on Christmas Day since the 1880s.
The NFL moved the Philadelphia Eagles’ game against the Minnesota Vikings from Sunday night to Tuesday because of the blizzard. It’s the third time this season snow has forced a change of plans for the Vikings. Two of their games this month needed to be relocated because the roof of their stadium collapsed.
The snow was forecast to taper off by Monday evening, with skies clearing Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.