The words ice storm bring back bad memories for many Mainers.
In January 1998, ice paralyzed the state and region for three weeks, knocking out power to half the state, causing six deaths in Maine and millions of dollars in damage.
This weekend, another ice storm is expected to move into much of Maine’s southern half.
But it won’t be as bad as the one 16 years ago, right?
“Hopefully,” said Mike Kistner, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service’s office in Gray. “The bullseye is pretty much where the population is, unfortunately.
“It’d be a good idea to start preparing for extended power outages, if this is to occur.”
Central Maine Power spokeswoman Gail Rice said the company is treating the storm as serious, and has already put every employee on notice that they could be called in to work this weekend, from line workers to office workers.
“We’re preparing for the worst and hoping we don’t get it,” Rice said.
Kistner said Kennebec, Androscoggin, Waldo, Cumberland and York counties are expected to bear the brunt of freezing rain coming into the region Saturday night into Sunday evening, likely causing significant icing.
Southern parts of Somerset, Franklin and Oxford counties should also be affected, but Kistner said the storm will likely bring more snow than freezing rain in the mountains. The storm is also expected to affect New Hampshire, Vermont and northern New York.
In 1998, approximately five days of freezing rain led to the outages and damage in parts of Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Canada. Though Kistner said the freezing rain expected this weekend’ should last less than a day, Maine won’t necessarily be out of the woods by Sunday’s end. A cold front is expected to move in behind it, he said.
On Monday, temperatures should be above freezing, but after that, Kistner said, they will dip. Tuesday should bring high temperatures in the teens and lower 20s, keeping the ground frozen and making it hard to heat homes in case of extended outages.
“The thing that we’re most worried about is the freezing rain,” said Rice, the CMP spokeswoman. “It really can do a number on trees and on wires.”
For many officials, plans relating to the storm are still fluid: the Maine Emergency Management Agency will finalize its response plans after a Friday conference call with forecasters, county emergency managers and other officials, said Lynette Miller, an agency spokeswoman.
Lesley Jones, Augusta’s public works director, said during the colder months, snowplow drivers must be available to work all the time. For now, she said the city is making sure generators are fueled and chainsaws and barriers readied in case trees fall down.
Few locals have their finger on the pulse of the community ahead of a storm more than Tom Bolster, the owner of Gosline’s Hardware in Farmingdale. He said his business goes up by between 300 and 400 percent ahead of a storm — last Saturday, ahead of a storm that brought about a foot of snow to the region, was his busiest this year.
But on Thursday, Bolster said only a few people came to the store mentioning the weather.
“I don’t feel the same buzz this time,” he said. “Christmas is at the forefront of everybody’s mind.”