The weekend storm gripping Maine on Saturday could dump as much as 1 to 2 inches of snow an hour at its peak.
The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for the entire coast as well as interior eastern Maine up to Bangor and as far north as Houlton. The rest of the interior state has been placed under winter storm warning and winter weather advisory through 7 a.m. Sunday.
Snow began to fly around daybreak along the Down East coast, and mid-morning over Bangor, where blowing snow was already reducing visibility before 11 a.m. The storm wasn’t expected to hit the crown of Maine until at least 3 p.m.
Clockwise from left: A couple make their way through the snow on Congress Street in Portland on Saturday; a sidewalk plow makes its way down High Street in Portland; and a man jogs through the corner of Congress and High streets. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN
Heaviest snowfall is expected to hit in the afternoon, when as much as 1 to 2 inches an hour may fall across the hardest hit parts of the state. That light, fluffy snow will be accompanied by strong winds blowing at a sustained 16 mph but gusting as high as 45 to 55 mph. The wind will drive temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, which can cause exposed skin to succumb to frostbite in under 30 minutes, according to a weather service advisory.
By early evening, Versant Power was reporting that about 3,700 customers had lost power while 1,600 Central Maine Power Co. customers were without electricity.
The highest concentration of power outages was in Washington County, where 3,000 customers had lost power because of the heavy snowfall, according to Versant. For Central Maine Power, the highest number of outages was in Kennebec County, with 525 customers without power shortly after 6 p.m.
In Raymond, strong winds sent a tree crashing through a house, WGME reported. There was extensive damage to the house, but no one was hurt, the TV station reported. People and dogs had been inside, but made it out safely.
The combination of snow and high winds was expected to create whiteout conditions and severely restrict visibility.
“Travel will be very difficult to impossible during the peak of the storm. Please stay off the roads. If you must travel, pack a winter survival kit,” the weather service said Saturday morning.
Current projections show up to 18 to 24 inches of snow are on tap for the Down East coast from Bar Harbor to Eastport, and inland to Greater Bangor, according to the weather service office in Caribou.
Farther inland, 12 to 18 inches of snow are forecast for much of central Maine, including Skowhegan, Dover-Foxcroft, Millinocket and Lincoln, as well as Houlton. Moving toward the crown of Maine, that accumulation lessens to 8 to 12 inches in Presque Isle, Caribou and Van Buren, and 4 to 6 inches in Fort Kent.
The southern coast is expected to get 12 to 18 inches from Portland up to Rockland, according to the weather service office in Gray.
Moving up to the western mountains, the expected snowfall drops off to 4 to 6 inches from Rangeley to Jackman on the Canadian border.
The expected blizzard conditions have prompted closures across the state and state officials to advise Mainers to stay indoors. Those closures include public transportation systems, including bus systems in Bangor and Portland.
Many cities and towns have also issued parking bans, such as Bangor and Portland, where no vehicles are to be left on public streets or parking lots during the storm.
In Bangor, parking will be allowed downtown only in the lower levels of the Pickering Square and Columbia Street parking garages and the rear of the Upper Abbot Lot on Harlow Street. Outside downtown, parking will only be allowed at the upper parking lot at Cameron Stadium on Mount Hope Avenue and beside the Beth Pancoe Aquatic Center on 13th Street.
In Portland, people can park at the two city-operated garages on Spring and Elm streets for $3 a night.