A late winter storm roared into the region Wednesday afternoon, prompting cancellations and traffic accidents throughout the area with forecasts calling for a foot or more of snow in central Maine.

Snow started to fall in Waterville around 11 a.m. Wednesday and picked up in intensity in the early afternoon. Precipitation was expected to ease up early Thursday afternoon, according to Nikki Becker, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Gray.

Most areas in central Maine were expected to get a mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow before it turned over to mostly snow inland, Becker said. High wind gusts of up to 35 mph were expected overnight, Becker said.

A range of 9 to 14 inches of snow was expected to fall by Thursday afternoon in central Maine, with lower snow accumulations closer to Maine’s coast.

Not including the latest storm, about 64 inches of snow has fallen in the Waterville area this winter, according to the National Weather Service. That compares to 76 inches last year, when about 14 inches fell in March.

The heavy snowfall prompted many area schools to release students early Wednesday, including Augusta schools, Waterville-based Alternative Organizational Structure 92 and Skowhegan-based School Administrative District 54, all of which let its students out at 11:30 a.m.

In addition to schools, the Augusta Boys and Girls Club closed Wednesday, as did the Augusta Elks Lodge and Winslow Public Library. Fairfield postponed its Town Council meeting until March 18 at 6:30 p.m.

More than a dozen vehicle accidents and rollovers were reported Wednesday afternoon, including several in Augusta, Waterville and Skowhegan; but none was believed to involve serious injury.

The heavy snowfall, coupled with cold overnight temperatures, could make snow removal difficult and traveling dangerous, Becker said. With a low temperature in the teens expected for Thursday morning, most of the freezing rain and snowfall will create slippery road conditions. The storm should dissipate by early Thursday afternoon before a sunny Friday with highs in the 30s.

Temperatures Saturday are expected to increase into the high 30s or low 40s, Becker said. A chance of more snow is possible Saturday night.

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239 [email protected] Twitter: @jessescardina