GRAY, Maine — In what the National Weather Service calls “a really tricky forecast,” coastal Maine will bear the brunt of an overnight storm slated to drop several inches of light, fluffy snow that will drift Wednesday morning.
“Generally, this storm is going to be a grazing blow,” said meteorologist Mike Kistner of the National Weather Service in Gray. “But we’re kind of unsure how far north and west this band is going to come up.”
With snow expected to begin sometime between 6 and 8 p.m. Tuesday, York and Cumberland counties are expected to see 4-6 inches, with 3-5 inches of snow falling in Waldo, Hancock and Washington counties starting between 8 and 10 p.m.
Down East Maine will see snow start in the early morning Wednesday.
The Bangor area and northern Maine won’t see significant snowfall, according to Kistner.
The storm is expected to wind down late Wednesday morning, but winds gusting to 30 mph could cause drifting.
While temperatures will hover around zero — except for northern counties where it will be well below zero — the wind chill will reach 10 below zero to 20 below zero everywhere except northern Maine, which likely will reach 30 below zero.
The fast-moving winter storm, forecast to dump as much as a foot of snow on the northeastern United States on Tuesday, was expected to disrupt the evening commute for millions of people along the densely populated coast.
The storm prompted officials to close schools and many federal government offices in Washington, where about an inch of snow had fallen by early afternoon.
Winter storm warnings and advisories were in place from the central Appalachian Mountains north to southern New England, the National Weather Service said. The area includes all of the Middle Atlantic states and the busy Interstate 95 highway corridor from Washington to Boston.
The polar front is expected to drive temperatures in the eastern half of the United States from 10 to 25 degrees below average. Southern New England could get up to a foot of snow as the cold front picks up moisture from the Atlantic Ocean, the weather service said.
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers in Washington were ordered to stay home ahead of what was forecast to be the heaviest snowfall in three years. City schools and offices also shut down, and the White House called off its Tuesday press briefing.
But the Supreme Court remained open to hear cases, and organizers of the annual anti-abortion March for Life said Wednesday’s rally would go on regardless of weather.
State governments in Delaware and Maryland shut down, and Connecticut sent nonessential state workers home beginning at 3 p.m. The Maryland Transit Administration cut back rail and bus services.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe warned residents not to travel if they did not have to. Malloy encouraged private-sector companies to consider releasing workers early.
The inauguration party for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Ellis Island in New York Harbor was canceled because of the looming storm.
The polar front will be something of a repeat of the cold snap that gripped much of the United States at the start of the year. Cold and snow snarled air and road travel, shattered temperature records and contributed to at least nine deaths.
About 2,900 flights in the United States had been canceled on Tuesday, according to FlightAware.com, a tracking service. The worst-affected airports were Philadelphia International and New York’s LaGuardia.
AccuWeather said the cold front would drop temperatures below freezing as far south as northern Florida. The entire state of Minnesota was below zero early Tuesday.
While the polar front grips the eastern United States, the western half will see above average temperatures as a drought worsens, the weather service said.