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February 3, 2023

With bitter cold closing in, Maine hunkers down

Peter Van Allen Commercial Street in Portland's Old Port neighborhood was mostly quiet on a sunny, but bitterly cold Friday. Most the traffic was delivery trucks and, here, a refrigeration repair company.

With temperatures forecast to drop throughout the day Friday and reach well into the negative digits Friday night and Saturday, businesses and first responders were prepping for what may be a difficult cold spell.

The National Weather Service is calling for temperatures as low as negative 15 in the Portland area by Saturday morning, with wind chills as low as 40 below zero. In Aroostook County, Presque Isle is under a blizzard warning, with snow whipped by 50-mile-per-hour winds and temperatures expected to drop to minus 23 degrees by early Saturday morning. 

“We have yet to experience true Arctic air this entire season," said Sarah Jamison, senior service hydrologist at National Weather Service in Gray. “This will be a dramatic shift from our mild winter so far, and frozen pipes could be an issue."

Maine Water offered homeowners tips on how to avoid the pipes from freezing and bursting. (See box below.)

Across Maine, cities are staffing temporary homeless shelters, Maine's largest power company prepped for power outages and ski areas were either closing or scaling back operations. 

“Temperatures this weekend will be extremely — and dangerously — cold across the state," Gov. Janet Mills said this week. "Please take extra precautions, be careful if you go outside, and be sure to check on your family, friends, and neighbors to make sure they are okay. MEMA will be working closely with county emergency agencies and local partners to support warming centers."

The Maine Emergency Management Agency has a list of precautions to take.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention emphasizes preventing hypothermia and frostbite. Both can be avoided by wearing layered clothing, gloves, hats and proper footwear to reduce skin exposure. This is an important precaution to take, even if only outside briefly. If you suspect you might have hypothermia or frostbite, rewarm yourself slowly and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Central Maine Power said it is getting ready by adding service centers this weekend.

“In anticipation of sub-zero temperatures, CMP is taking the extra precaution of adding additional coverage at CMP service centers from Friday through Sunday,” said CMP spokesperson Jon Breed. “We’re preparing for the weather, and we advise our customers to as well. These cold temperatures can quickly become dangerous, and we want customers to be aware of the proper safety precautions to take.”


Peter Van Allen
As temperatures plummeted Friday, a Preble Street/Good Shepherd Food Bank truck offered meals.

In Portland, city services has established a shelter for the homeless and those that have lost heat. The city will staff a temporary shelter at the Salvation Army gymnasium at 297 Cumberland Ave. Daytime warming shelters are also offered at the Portland Public Library downtown branch, as well as the First Parish Church at 425 Congress St. 

South Portland established warming shelters at City Hall, the Community Center and the Main Library, according to the South Portland Police Department. 

In Bangor, a shelter established at Bangor Parks and Recreation, 647 Main St., will be ready to open as a potential pop-up warming center, according to the Bangor Police Department.

In Auburn, the city partnered with the Auburn Housing Authority to create a warming center at the AHA’s Family Development Center on Valerie Circle. 

Ski areas

Just weeks into what had been an unusually warm winter, ski areas were in the rare position of closing because it is too cold. 

In Greenwood, Mt. Abram said it would be closed Friday and Saturday. “Due to sub-zero temperatures we have decided to close for the safety of our staff and our guests,” the ski area said on its website. “Loose Boots Lounge will be open normal hours.”

The Camden Snow Bowl is closed Friday and Saturday, and will reopen Sunday, the ski area said on its website. 

Sugarloaf Mountain is open, but as of 9 a.m. Friday, it reported that high winds were affecting ski lifts: “We are experiencing strong winds that are impacting our limited lift operations this morning,” Sugarloaf said on its website. 

Likewise, Sunday River is open, but its online mountain report cautioned skiers: “It's going to be a frigid Friday here today at Sunday River. Temps started at zero degrees and are forecasted to drop as the day continues. In addition, winds are impacting our ability to operate lifts safely, and are expected to continue to do so throughout the day.”


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