A weekend blizzard could dump 1 to 3 inches an hour across parts of Maine, creating potentially dangerous driving conditions.
A winter storm watch is in effect for much of the state from the Down East coast to the St. John Valley Saturday morning to Sunday morning, while a winter storm warning is in effect for interior southwestern Maine and a blizzard warning for the southern and central coast, according to the National Weather Service.
Forecasts earlier this week were highly uncertain as forecasters tried to determine whether the storm would hit the coast or move farther out to sea. Now the storm is expected to start just after daybreak on Saturday along the coast, mid-morning in the interior and the afternoon up in northern Maine.
The storm’s mix of heavy snow and northeast winds gusting up to 55 mph could create blizzard conditions, particularly along the coast, where 1 to 3 inches of snow may fall an hour, according to a weather service advisory.
“Travel could be extremely dangerous. Widespread blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility and cause hazardous travel. Strong winds could cause damage to trees and powerlines,” the weather service said in an advisory.
Maine Emergency Management Agency Director Peter Rogers cautioned Mainers to “stay off the road.”
About 12 to 18 inches of snow are forecast along most of the coast from Portland all the way to Eastport, according to the weather service offices in Caribou and Gray.
Snowfall will be heavy as well heading into the interior, where 12 to 18 inches are also on tap for Greater Bangor, Lincoln, Millinocket, Greenville, Houlton, Presque Isle and Caribou.
That will lessen somewhat closer toward the far northern borderland, where 6 to 8 inches are forecast for Van Buren and 4 to 6 inches for Madawaska and Fort Kent, according to the weather service office in Caribou.
The western mountains will be spared the heaviest snow, with 6 to 8 inches expected in Rangeley and 4 to 6 inches in Jackman, the weather service office in Gray reported.
Versant Power said Friday morning it was deploying crews, particularly Down East, in advance of this weekend’s storm and the power outages expected to accompany it.
“Our storm team will continue to monitor the forecast and make adjustments to ensure we’re ready when the storm lands,” said Stan Hartin, Versant Power’s storm manager. “With a significant amount of snowfall and strong winds predicted, as well as a chance of blowing snow, we’re making sure we have equipment in place and staff prepared to respond throughout our service territory.”
Meanwhile, Central Maine Power said it has more than 500 lineworkers and 124 tree crews in place to respond for potential outages, though noting outages are more likely from the storm’s high winds rather than the dry snow expected to fall over the state.
“We urge our customers to prepare in the event outages occur,” CMP Vice President of Electric Operations Adam Desrosiers said.