Arctic air blast prompts warnings

Darrell Stevens shovels the snow off of his Bangor home early in the afternoon of Saturday, January 22, 2011. Many Mainers spent Saturday digging out from Friday's storm, which dumped more than a foot of snow in some areas. (BDN Photo by Kate Collins)
Darrell Stevens shovels the snow off of his Bangor home early in the afternoon of Saturday, January 22, 2011. Many Mainers spent Saturday digging out from Friday's storm, which dumped more than a foot of snow in some areas. (BDN Photo by Kate Collins)
Posted Jan. 22, 2011, at 5:33 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 7:17 a.m.

FORT KENT, Maine — An arctic blast from Canada is bringing brutally frigid air and wind chills expected to dip to 50 below zero to northern New England, prompting officials to warn residents to take precautions against the cold.

The National Weather Service in Caribou issued a statewide wind chill warning Sunday night effective through Monday.

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Bitterly cold air will remain over northern Maine through Monday night, forcing temperatures down below zero with negative double-digit wind chill values.

“This is the coldest air we’ve had in about two years,” said Michael Hill, a weather service meteorologist in Caribou.

Emergency management agencies were urging residents to bundle up and heat their homes safely during the cold snap. Shelters were preparing for an increase in the number of people wanting to get out of the cold, and authorities in Maine and Pennsylvania waived restrictions on heating oil delivery.

About 90 miles northwest of Philadelphia, a man died after spending the night in his car in frigid temperatures in Lansford, and his wife found him Saturday morning. Temperatures had dropped into the single digits overnight, Lansford police Detective Jack Soberick said, but it’s unclear why 49-year-old Alan Kurtz had slept in his car.

In North Haven, Conn., a woman’s frozen body was found in a home’s driveway Sunday morning after a neighbor called police. Denise O’Hara apparently fell in a driveway and froze to death Saturday night, when temperatures were close to zero, police said.

Northern New England is used to cold winters. A remote site in northern Maine recorded a minus 50 reading on Jan. 16, 2009, that tied a 1933 record set in Vermont for the coldest temperature recorded in New England.

In Bangor the high temperature Monday will be about 2 degrees with a west wind between 10 and 15 mph. Wind chill values could be as low as 36 below zero, according to the National Weather Service. The low will be around minus 10 Monday night with wind chill values as low as minus 20.

In Houlton the high Monday will be near minus 4 with wind chill values as low as minus 41. The low Monday night will be around minus 20 with wind chill values as low as minus 32.

Factoring in the wind chill, people can expect temperatures approaching minus 50 Monday in extreme northern Maine.

Temperatures are expected to rise somewhat Tuesday before reaching seasonable levels Wednesday, when temperatures are expected to climb to the 20s in most areas.

The National Weather Service reminds people that if they must go outside Monday they should wear several layers of clothing and a hat, which helps keep in the 20 percent of body heat that is lost through the head. The weather service also said that people should cover all exposed skin if they plan to be outside.

Pets are susceptible to cold weather. If they must stay outside, make sure there is a warm, dry shelter with sufficient food and unfrozen water.

Residents are urged to check on the elderly to make sure their furnaces are working properly and to remember the greatest threat to life and property during these winter cold snaps are wood-fired furnaces and fumes from kerosene heaters.

The snowstorm which hit much of Maine on Friday left, unofficially, 11.5 inches in Bangor, 8 inches in Machias, 20 inches in Caribou and 5 inches in Fort Kent. The National Weather Service has not updated official snowfall amounts from the storm.

The Coast Guard also issued an advisory for mariners Saturday to exercise caution over the next few days as the the weather service predicts freezing sea spray throughout New England.

Mariners are reminded to use caution while transiting or mooring vessels within areas that are common to ice formation. Vessel owners are encouraged to seek alternate moorings or haul out their vessels if they are concerned about damage from ice formations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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