FORT KENT, Maine — Baby, it’s cold outside, and it’s looking like Mainers will welcome 2013 in on an Arctic cold front, according to officials with the National Weather Service in Caribou.

“The [cold] front will be into the area by Tuesday morning and the temperatures will be moderately cold at the start of the day,” Victor Nouhan, lead forecaster at the Caribou weather service offices said Monday afternoon. “As the day goes on into late afternoon the temperatures will fall and be accompanied by brisk winds.”

No warnings or advisories had been issued as of Monday afternoon, but Nouhan said they would likely be posted by late Tuesday and remain in effect all day Wednesday as temperatures in Downeast and interior Maine drop to five degrees below zero and fall into the double digits below zero in far northern and western Maine.

Add with the wind, he said, those temperatures will feel like 20-35 below zero.

“This will definitely be the coldest weather of the season,” Nouhan said. “But it’s not all that unusual for Maine at this point in the year.”

Nouhan said people spending time in the outdoors over the next several days should take an extra moment to bundle up before venturing out.

As cold as it is going to be, ice on Maine’s rivers, lakes and ponds is not uniformly thick and caution should be exercised before traveling over frozen bodies of water, according to Doug Rafferty, spokesman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

“Always test the thickness of ice before you venture out onto it,” Rafferty said.

As a standard rule, he said, the thickness of ice should be 4 inches to be safe for walking on it. “If it varies much below that, back off,” he said.

Five-plus inches are recommended before traveling over frozen water on a snowmobile or ATV and between 8-12 inches is needed to support a car, pickup or ice-fishing shack, Rafferty said.

“I have heard reports of up to a foot of ice on some of the lakes up in Aroostook County but over in Rangeley we still have open water,” Rafferty said.

On Monday wardens and responders were searching for a woman who may have gone through thin ice on Rangeley Lake while riding a snowmobile.

Care should also be taken with domestic animals during Maine’s cold snaps with pet owners taking some extra time to check them for weather-related injuries, according to Dr. Christiana Yule of the Fort Kent Animal Hospital.

“Check for snowballs between toes or moisture in the ears,” Yule said. “I see a lot of winter ear infections from dogs that like to dig their heads into the snow and eye problems with corneal injuries from blowing snow and ice when it’s windy outside.”

Cats are susceptible to frostbite on ears and tips of tails and all pets need to have warm, indoor shelter from the elements to curl up and escape the cold, she said.

Once this current Arctic air passes over Maine, Nouhan said there are two more which could affect the state into next week.

“It’s a bit of a chilly start to the New Year,” he said.

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.