Bangor could see record cold temperatures by the weekend.
In this Jan. 3, 2013, file photo, a crossing guard on Broadway at the Mary Snow School keeps all of his skin covered against the cold. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

This week and weekend, an incoming front of Arctic air will mean most of Maine will plunge into a deep freeze. It’s the first time temperatures statewide will dip below zero during a winter that’s for the most part been unseasonably warm.

The high temperature on Saturday for Bangor is expected to be 1 degree below zero. The last time Bangor had a high temperature below zero was more than 5 years ago on Jan. 6, 2018, when it also was minus 1, according to the National Weather Service office in Caribou. Bangor’s lowest high ever recorded on Feb. 4 was 4 degrees, set in 1963, which means it may set a record on Saturday.

In addition to the freezing temperatures, it will be windy throughout the state, meaning the wind chill will be much lower than the actual temperature — as low as minus 50, in some places. Blowing snow also may impede visibility and complicate driving.

Extreme cold poses a risk to older adults and those with medical conditions, as well as for people who are experiencing homelessness. With more than 36 hours of below-zero temperatures expected from Friday night through early Sunday morning, Mainers should take precautions in order to stay safe.  

The National Weather Service and health agencies advise people — and their pets — to not go outdoors unless absolutely necessary during extended periods of below-zero temperatures.

Older adults in particular are highly susceptible to hypothermia in extreme cold, and are advised to keep their homes heated to between 68 and 70 degrees and to wear hats, gloves, scarves and multiple layers of clothing if they are to venture outside.

There are five warming centers in Bangor available to people experiencing homelessness, including the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter at the corner of Cedar and Main streets, the Union Street Brick Church at 126 Union St., the Mansion Church at 96 Center St. and the River Church at 146 Center St. The Bangor Public Library also is open during the day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

The weather service predicts there also may be record low highs in Aroostook County and northern Penobscot County. The record low high in Caribou was minus 4 degrees in 1963, but the low high on Saturday is expected to be around minus 8.

That’s true for Houlton and Millinocket as well, which recorded low highs of minus 2 for Houlton and 0 degrees for Millinocket, also both in 1963. On Saturday, it’s predicted to only hit minus 7 degrees in both towns.

The coldest temperature ever recorded in Maine was minus 50 degrees, on the Big Black River, about 20 miles south of the town of Allagash, near the border with Quebec, on Jan. 16, 2009. With the lowest temperatures in Aroostook County expected to hit around minus 25 on Friday night, that record is most likely secure.

But while temperatures will be bone-chilling, it’s unlikely that most of them will break any state or city records — with one notable exception.

In Washington County, temperatures in Eastport are expected to drop to minus 18 on Friday night, which means that it may well beat a record that it has held for 110 years. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Eastport was also minus 18, way back on Feb. 13, 1913.

Friday night will see the true plunge happen, with 21 degrees below zero expected in Bangor, 19 below in Belfast and Augusta and 13 below in Portland. Temperatures around minus 25 degrees are expected for most of Aroostook County.

For records to be broken Friday night, it would have to hit minus 32 in Bangor, minus 23 in Augusta, minus 28 in Belfast and minus 39 in Portland. In both Presque Isle and Fort Kent, it would have to descend to minus 42.

For most of the state, the cold will see-saw a bit during the week, with temperatures dropping to near-zero or below zero on Tuesday night, before rebounding during the day on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to the upper teens and low 20s in Aroostook County and the 20s and 30s from the Bangor area south.

On Saturday during the day, temperatures won’t climb above zero for all regions but the southern tip of the state, which will see them hit a comparatively balmy 6 or 7 degrees. That night, temperatures will drop well below zero again, though not quite as dramatically as they did on Friday night.

On Sunday, the weather will rebound, with highs in the 30s along the coast and the upper 20s in the north.

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.