February 23, 2019
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Maine plunges into deep freeze, prepares for snowstorm to hit midweek

BDN File | BDN
BDN File | BDN
Catherine Allen plays in the snow with her dog, Manuka, at Little City Park in Bangor, Feb. 9, 2017.
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BANGOR, Maine — While the deep freeze this weekend may be on track to shatter previous low temperature records, Maine is bracing for a winter storm expected to hit Tuesday, with up to a foot of snow predicted.

Temperatures on Saturday were struggling to rise above zero degrees Fahrenheit, especially across the north where highs were expected to remain below zero over the afternoon.

With strong northwest winds continuing Saturday, the National Weather Service’s wind chill advisories and warnings were expanded and will remain in effect through Sunday morning.

High winds were expected to push the wind chill factor down to about 40 degrees below zero in Somerset County and northern Franklin and Oxford counties, where the weather service’s Gray office had wind chill warnings in effect, according to the Maine Emergency Management Agency.

Though it was still too early for specifics Saturday afternoon, meteorologist Francis Kredensor of the weather service’s Caribou office said it appeared that Greater Bangor and Down East could get hit with as much as a foot of snow from mid-day Tuesday into Wednesday.

“The heavier stuff seems like it will be probably more toward late afternoon into the evening — and certainly evening and overnight is when we’re expecting the most of it,” he said.

Krendensor said, however, the nor’easter heading Maine’s way likely won’t be as bad as the blizzard that hit last month.

“It’s going to be a potent low-pressure system, and a lot of that is going to depend on the track and the exact evolution of the [storm] system,” he said.

“At least 6 to 12 seems like a good early bet, but depending on the timing and the exact track things could change. I’d say that’s a fairly good bet, but I’m not putting any money on any snow totals,” the forecaster said.

“Definitely right now you’re going to see a lot of different numbers getting thrown out by various [media] outlets on the snow totals. There’s going to be some heavy snow — that’s for sure. There’s going to be some gusty winds as well, but as of right now it doesn’t look like it’s going to be as bad as the last one.”

On Saturday, Katahdin had the lowest recorded temperature in the state — minus 20 degrees, while temperatures fell in Aroostook, northern Penobscot, Piscataquis and Washington counties below zero according to a statement posted on the weather service’s Caribou office’s website.

Its record for Bangor for March was 8 degrees set on March 8, 2007, with records going back to 1925, Kredensor said. The temperature as of 12:01 a.m. Saturday was 13 degrees.

So, while the daytime highs at Bangor and Houlton will almost certainly be lower than the monthly records, Bangor didn’t technically set a record, Kredensor said.

Houlton, however, appeared to have set a new record for the month at 2 degrees at 12:01 a.m., or 1 degree colder than the coldest high temperature for the month of March set in 1950 since record keeping there began in 1948.

Caribou came close at minus 1, just 2 degrees warmer than the minus three record for March set in 2007, according to records maintained since 1939.

“What these records show us, essentially, is the ‘strength’ of the arctic air that has come roaring in on these gusty northwest winds,” he said. “A frigid air mass like this would not be out of place across Maine in January or February, but getting into mid-March, it becomes less likely.”

MEMA on Saturday offered several recommendations for avoiding cold temperature medical conditions, such as hypothermia and frostbite through its Maine Prepares program.

Mainers were encouraged to dress in layers and to wear a scarf, gloves and a warm hat, as 30 percent of body heat is lost through the head. Other tips were to drink plenty of fluids and warm or hot drinks, keep active when it’s cold but not to the point of sweating and to keep dry and change out of wet clothes as soon as possible.

Residents also were reminded to cut down on alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, since all three cause heat loss.

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