AUGUSTA — Schools closed early Wednesday as heavy snowflakes fell in the capital city ahead of a storm that could bring a foot of snow and power outages to the area.
In Augusta, the National Weather Service predicted 7 to 13 inches of snow and sleet from Wednesday through Thursday, with high wind that could gust to 40 mph and wind-chill values below zero.
A winter storm warning issued by the weather service Wednesday through noon Thursday said wet snow, wind and freezing rain might cause power outages in the area, and the rapidly falling overnight temperature could freeze standing water in roadways.
Ahead of the storm, most school districts in the capital area closed early, including districts based in Augusta, Gardiner, Hallowell and Somerville. Courts closed early in Kennebec County, and all legislative work was called off for Thursday as well.
The storm will be the first real test for Augusta’s new sand-and-salt mix used to treat city streets, announced in late February after officials said they couldn’t get more road salt after one more delivery. As a result, they switched from a mix of 75 percent salt and 25 percent sand to the opposite — 25 percent salt and 75 percent sand.
Accidents weren’t much of a problem in the capital area by Wednesday afternoon, according to emergency dispatchers, though scanner traffic indicated that two tractor-trailers got stuck on hills in the area. In Augusta, a dispatcher said road conditions were bad, but accidents hadn’t been a problem.
The snow also could affect Maine’s spring flooding outlook by adding to a large, existing snowpack, said Lynette Miller, spokeswoman for the Maine Emergency Management Agency.
Last week, a state panel heard that Maine’s immediate risk of flooding was normal in the short term but above normal in the long term, as the weather could warm up and thaw thick ice and snow quickly in some areas along Maine’s coastal and southern areas.
Miller said flooding severity still will depend on weather factors over the next few weeks, but the storm “just adds to that risk factor that we’re concerned about at this time of year,” she said.