BANGOR, Maine — A major storm which started laying down snow in southern parts of the state early Tuesday was upgraded to a blizzard by the time it stretched northward through Bangor and all along the Maine coastline in the afternoon.
The snowstorm is likely to rank among the winter’s worst for amount of snowfall before it ends Wednesday, said Tony Mignone, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Caribou.
“It’s probably going to be close to the top of the list overall,” Mignone said Tuesday night, “maybe at the top of the list in some places and close to the top in others for the season.”
The NWS blizzard warning started in the Portland area in the morning. It was extended to the Bangor area and coastal Maine later in the day, with wind gusts of as high as 50 miles per hour causing blizzard conditions through the evening, according to the NWS.
The warning was in effect through 2 a.m. Wednesday. The weather service revised its accumulation estimates Tuesday night, with snow totals of 14 inches and a trace of ice expected in the Bangor area. Ten to 12 inches was expected in interior Down East, and 5 to 6 inches were anticipated in coastal Hancock and Washington counties.
Further south, 14 to 18 inches were forecast for York and Cumberland counties, including Portland, where the storm should wind down overnight into early Wednesday. Winds gusting as high as 62 mph were reported in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, while snow was falling, creating blizzard conditions there. Gusts of up to 59 mph were reported in Portland, and 53 mph winds were reported in Rockland, Chris Kimble, a forecaster with the NWS office in Gray, said Tuesday evening.
By shortly after 6 p.m., Central Maine Power was dealing with more than 25,000 customers without power in its territory in southern and western Maine, with nearly 21,000 in York County alone.
Emera Maine, meanwhile, was reporting 1,400 outages by 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. That number was up from 594 a short time before.
Though winds were not expected to be as strong further inland, as much as 2 feet of snow was forecast to fall on northern Piscataquis and Penobscot counties. Western Aroostook County was expected to get about 18 inches, according to the revised estimates. Eastern Aroostook will likely receive 14 inches of snow.
Schools and municipal offices around southern and eastern Maine either closed for the day or sent students home early. The Legislature canceled afternoon hearings and work sessions and government offices in Augusta closed by 2 p.m.
“I urge everybody who is driving to commute safely to your destination,” Gov. Paul LePage said in a statement before noon Tuesday. “Stopping safely on snow or ice during inclement weather takes extra time and distance. Drive slowly so you can adjust to changing road conditions. Please remember to keep a safe distance behind other vehicles, and give plow trucks plenty of room to operate.”
Flights in and out of Bangor International Airport and Portland International Jetport were canceled Tuesday. Flights should resume by about 6 a.m. Wednesday in Portland and about noon in Bangor.
The Portland Metro public bus transportation system also shut down at noon Tuesday.