GRAY, Maine — The first significant snowstorm of the season is expected to blanket Maine overnight with up to a foot of light, fluffy snow.
A winter storm warning will be in effect from 9 p.m. Saturday to 3 p.m. Sunday in parts of the state. Snow will begin falling in New Hampshire and southwest Maine late Saturday afternoon and early Saturday evening, and then head northeast before tapering off Sunday afternoon, the National Weather Service in Gray said early Saturday morning.
Heavy snow is expected at times, possibly mixing with sleet along the coast. Twelve to 16 inches of snow is expected to fall in central and interior downeast Maine. Parts of Aroostook, Piscataquis, Penobscot and Somerset counties will see 8 to 14 inches.
Extreme cold will result in snow that is “very light and fluffy,” said meteorologist Mike Ekster at the National Weather Service station in Gray. While the snow will be easier to clear, wind gusts and heavy accumulation will make for dangerous driving conditions.
“Nobody should be on the roads tomorrow, regardless of what type of snow it is,” Ekster said. “It just packs down the snow and makes it harder for the [public works] crews to remove. We’re hoping most people just stay home.”
In addition to the snow warnings, a wind chill warning was in effect for northern portions of the state on Friday.
Aroostook, Piscataquis, Penobscot and Somerset counties experienced biting wind chills throughout the day Friday. The wind chill warning was in effect through Saturday morning.
Wind chills were expected to get as low as 35 below zero.
Temperatures in northern Maine dropped into double-digits below zero around the region with spotters in Eagle Lake and the Big Black Lake area reporting readings at minus 32 degrees fahrenheit and minus 34, respectively, according to Joe Hewitt, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service in Caribou.
Other readings around the region as of 8 a.m. Saturday included 26 below near Allagash, 23 below in Fort Kent, 16 below in Frenchville, 13 below in Presque Isle and 12 below in Houlton.
“We have a cold arctic blast with a strong high pressure coming down from Canada,” Hewitt said. “It’s not really that unusual to see temperatures like this, but to get this cold this early, we have not seen that in at least five years.”
Gov. Paul LePage’s office announced Friday afternoon that the governor signed a limited emergency proclamation allowing fuel transport and delivery trucks to drive additional hours to ensure that homes will be properly heated.
“This declaration will allow heating fuel to be delivered to Maine families when they need it most during this frigid weather,” LePage said. “Keeping homes warm is critical to protect the public health and safety of Mainers.”