Mainers woke up Thursday to an intense whiteout as a winter storm pummeled the state with what is expected to amount to a foot of snow in most places.
Snow started falling late Wednesday and isn’t predicted to stop until Thursday afternoon and evening, according to the National Weather Service. The worst was over by 8 a.m. Thursday as the bulk of the snow had already fallen, leaving a scattered range of 7 inches to 18 inches already on the ground, forecasters said. Bangor is predicted to get about 11 inches.
More than 25,000 customers of Central Maine Power lost electricity as a result of the snow and wind gusts, the vast majority of them in York County. Emera Maine had only 1,700 customers without power around midday, most of whom live on Mount Desert Island or surrounding island communities.
Emera Maine cautioned Thursday morning that hazardous travel conditions might slow the restoration efforts.
Downed lines Thursday morning in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, resulted in both northbound and southbound lanes of Interstate 95 being temporarily closed, according to news station WMTW.
The storm gained strength overnight Wednesday, greasing the roads before the morning commute, as wind gusts churned the flakes aloft and restricted drivers’ visibility.
“It should let up [around lunchtime],” Rich Norton, a meteorologist with the weather service in Caribou, said. “There’ll be a lot less falling snow.”
The hazardous road conditions forced dozens of schools, businesses and government offices to close or delay openings across Maine on Thursday. All state offices are closed. Speeds along the Maine Turnpike were reduced to 45 mph between Kittery and Augusta.
An average of 10 to 14 inches of snow is predicted to fall along that path by the end of Thursday, although local amounts could vary drastically in some places, said Margaret Curtis, a weather service meteorologist in Gray.
“It varied a lot, depending on who got the heavy snow, and who, a few miles down the road, managed to miss out,” Curtis said, explaining how the storm developed uneven bands of precipitation.
The least amount of snow is predicted along the immediate coastline, where only about a half of foot is expected to fall, Norton and Curtis said. Moving inland, those amounts rapidly increase. There could still be outliers, Norton said, noting that coastal Bar Harbor had a reading of 12 inches by 8 a.m.
By midday Thursday, though the eastern coast was still getting snow, coastal Hancock and Washington counties were removed from a winter storm warning that is expected to remain in effect for the most of the state through at least late afternoon. Storm conditions in inland eastern Maine are expected to last until 10 p.m. Thursday and to continue in northwestern and far northern Maine until Friday morning.
The most snow — around 18 inches — is expected in the mountainous regions near Baxter State Park, Rangeley and Jackman, Norton and Curtis said.
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