Spring is about a week away, but a storm that could drop more than a foot of snow in some parts of Maine is expected to make travel difficult from Wednesday evening to Thursday morning.
The Kennebec County region is expected to get at least 6 inches of snow between noon Wednesday and early Thursday morning, and 10 inches to a foot of precipitation could fall in northern parts of the region, according to Chris Legro, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Gray.
The snow is expected to begin around 11 a.m. Wednesday and continue until about noon on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
Heavy snowfall in the Augusta and Waterville areas is expected to start in the early afternoon, Legro said. Between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. the next day, there could be a mix that includes snow, sleet and freezing rain.
An alert Tuesday afternoon from the NWS described the precipitation as “hazard types,” and accumulations will be 10 to 14 inches with “around a trace of ice.”
The wind will include gusts up to 35 mph, and temperatures will be in the mid-20s.
The coast and more southern areas of the state are expected to get more mixed precipitation with lower snowfall totals, while close to 2 feet of snow could fall in areas of higher elevations in the mountains, Legro said.
The storm will make Wednesday’s evening commute difficult, he said, and Thursday morning also could be slippery, depending on how much is cleared off the roads.
Legro said it will remain cold, so whatever snow the storm drops probably won’t melt soon.
“It looks like this snow is going to stick around for awhile,” he said.
In some snow-weary central Maine towns, where a foot or more is expected, public works departments are preparing and resting for what has become almost routine.
“Hopefully, tonight is a night of rest, because it is going to be of long duration,” Waterville Public Works Director Mark Turner said Tuesday. “Supplies are very short right now, but we have enough to get through at least a few more snow events.”
His department last week procured about 500 yards of sand, he said.
“Storms like these use up to 250 yards,” he said. “That (500) will equal about two storms’ worth.”
This week, public works also got another 90 tons of salt, which could be used up this week, depending on the storm’s severity, he said.
Turner said he expects employees will use overtime on the storm, which will be the 32nd this year.
“We usually budget for an average of 15 or so,” he said. “It’s double what we’d normally do. But there’s no normal year in Maine. There really isn’t.”
Turner said the area typically sees storms right into April. His department is ready for Thursday’s, he said.
“Everything’s all set,” he said. “All the equipment’s ready to go and we’re going to stand by until the bad weather begins, and we’ll be right there.”
In Skowhegan, Road Commissioner Greg Dore said some of his men went home at noon Tuesday in anticipation of a prolonged period of snow.
“The National Weather Service is saying 10 to 20 inches,” Dore said Tuesday.”We should be around a foot.”
He said the highway department has a “very limited supply” of salt for the roads, but with temperatures in March being warmer than in February, the town should be in good shape. He said during cold periods he uses a ratio of three parts sand to one part salt. In March, he said, the ratio is closer to six parts sand to one part salt.
“I have enough salt to get through the next storm or two, but the company we’re buying it from — I ordered 10 loads two weeks ago and I got five,” he said. “It’s not that I don’t have money to buy salt. It’s that they don’t have any salt to give us.”
There also is an emergency sand pile on Pine Street, he said.
Dore said the highway department of 14 employees has used up about 75 percent of its budgeted overtime approved at Town Meeting.
The state government issued a news release Tuesday afternoon warning state residents to be prepared.
“The storm carries the likelihood of bad visibility, travel disruption and potential for power outages,” the release states. “It will bring heavy snow to the mountains, foothills and northern areas, with a mixed bag of precipitation to the south and coast, including some sleet, freezing rain and rain.”
The release also asks state residents to check on neighbors, be careful with generators and heaters and to be careful shoveling.
It ends with this bright note: “Spring officially arrives a week from Thursday.”
Staff writers Paul Koenig, Amy Calder and Doug Harlow contributed to this story.