As a strong winter storm passed through Maine and New Hampshire, dropping rain in southern Maine through the morning and a steady snowfall through the night, emergency management officials advised the public to avoid nonessential travel on Saturday.
“During the worst of the storm, we urge citizens to travel only if necessary,” MEMA Director Pete Rogers said in a statement. “Road conditions are expected to be extremely slick with temperatures hovering around freezing.”
If Mainers have to drive through the storm, in the event of an emergency, officials suggest carrying an extra lantern, food and water.
Late Saturday morning, the National Weather Service office in Gray released a winter storm warning that forecast 8 to 15 inches of snow in “South Central, Southwest and West Maine.” This includes parts of the counties of Oxford, Franklin, Somerset, York, Cumberland, Androscoggin, Kennebec and Waldo.
As the storm dragged in colder air, with some snow hitting the coast but the bulk of the snowfall predicted inland, the weather service said the rain would turn to snow.
As of 8:40 p.m., a total of 166,706 Central Maine Power users were without electricity. Saturday, up from about 4 p.m. at 19,000. The outages were concentrated in the counties of Cumberland, Androscoggin, Kennebec and York, with 2,775 alone in Kittery losing electricity. In Harpswell, all 4,677 CMP customers had no electricity, and in Portland there were 7,055 without power.
11,779 customers without power shortly before 9 p.m. were confirmed by Versant Power, which serves northern and eastern Maine.
As gusts hit up to 40 mph, further outages will arrive, the weather service said.
“The weather service said in its warning, “Heavy, wet snow can stick effectively to trees that are likely to cause downed branches and power outages.
By midafternoon, snowfall had entered parts of York County, including Buxton and Limerick. At that moment, coastal areas such as Portland were still seeing rain, while snow had started to fall in the West End of the city and by 9:15 p.m. The town was blanketed by only under an inch of slushy snow. Snow was dropping at between 1 and 2 inches per hour across Maine’s interior, the weather service said at 3:42 p.m.
The weather service on Saturday afternoon said it expected Waterville and much of the counties of Franklin and Somerset to have as much as 12-18 inches of snow. It was expected that snowfall would fall east of Waterville and through the midcoast area.
The city of Waterville expanded its moratorium on winter parking to 9 a.m. Sunday due to a storm.
The weather service expected 5 to 12 inches of snow for southern coastal cities such as Biddeford, Portland and Saco, with winds blowing snow up to 45 mph to trigger “near blizzard conditions.”
Around 5-12 inches can also be expected from Bangor, Brewer, Orono and Old Town, while Lewiston could see between 7 and 14 inches.
The speed limit on the Maine Turnpike was lowered from the New Hampshire state line to Augusta to 45 mph due to snow, officials said early Saturday afternoon.
Concord Coach Lines cancelled several bus trips planned for Saturday and Sunday in Maine and New Hampshire in anticipation of the weekend storm. The bus company cancelled southbound trips from Portland after 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, as well as northbound departures after 5 p.m. from Boston. 5:30 p.m. at Logan International Airport. At the station South.
Northbound departures from Portland after 12:15 p.m. have stopped operating.
The Maine Department of Transportation said Friday that more than 300 employees were ready to clear state roads. When the snow arrives, the department advised drivers to slow down, stop using cruise control, and stay away from other cars.
This article was submitted by Amy Calder of the Morning Sentinel and Emily Duggan of the Kennebec Journal.