A bundled up pedestrian walks along Hammond Street in Bangor on Friday afternoon when the temperature dropped to zero. The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill warning until 7:00 PM, Saturday, Feb.4. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Mainers woke up Saturday morning to frozen pipes, snow-blown roads and cars that wouldn’t start after record cold temperatures gripped Maine and much of the Northeast over the weekend.

Unlike prior weather events, such as the ice storm in 1998 or Hurricane Bob in 1991, Friday’s weather event was not accompanied by heavy precipitation. But even with clear skies, the extreme cold and gusty winds were enough to disrupt the lives of thousands of people across the state.

The coldest wind chill recorded in Bangor was minus 47 degrees at the Bangor International Airport at 11:53 p.m. on Friday, according to the National Weather Service in Caribou. The region’s coldest wind chill was minus 62 degrees, recorded at Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park at 10:12 p.m. Friday.

Central Maine Power and Versant, the state’s two largest electricity utilities, each reported that a few thousand customers had lost power from Friday into Saturday — low totals compared to many winter storms. Some Mainers who didn’t lose power nonetheless had to thaw out pipes after the severe cold penetrated the walls of their homes.

The temperatures were so low, trees snapped and the ground shuddered as the landscape dropped into a deep freeze.

In Aroostook County, Route 1 between Caribou and Van Buren was shut down for a few hours on Saturday because of the weather.

“The wind and blowing snow is causing whiteout conditions and heavy drifting that crews are unable to keep up with,” Maine State Police said on Twitter.

More than 100 organizations offered their buildings as warming centers throughout the state, with many of them geared toward helping unhoused people or others at risk of exposure to the subzero cold.

Despite the extreme weather, many of them drew little traffic.

In Ellsworth, INSPIRE recovery center stayed open all weekend, offering warmth to those who needed it. Even though items such as food, blankets and mittens were donated to the center late in the week, demand was low, according to recovery coach Billie Jo Warren.

She said the center has had as many as a dozen overnight guests since it opened for the winter in December, but that it had only four people stay Friday night.

“Yesterday we got a lot of donations,” Warren said Saturday. “I don’t know why today has been slow.”

At the Unitarian Universalist Society in Bangor, the church partnered with Needlepoint Sanctuary to set up overnight sleeping space in its Park Street building.

Brian Pitman, a volunteer with the church, said the church hosted between 35 and 40 people Friday night. People are welcome to stay until noon on Sunday, he said, but volunteers will be needed to transport visitors to other locations after that.

“It’s been pretty constant,” Pitman said, adding that the church usually doesn’t host people overnight. “It’s mostly unhoused people.”

Over the past few days, as Maine braced for the cold, donors dropped off pizzas, salads, sleeping bags and other needed items, he said.

“We have way too much food here,” he said with a laugh.

Temperatures across the state are expected to rise back into the double digits on Sunday and then reach daytime highs above freezing later in the week.

Avatar photo

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....