Temperatures throughout Maine are expected to plunge Thursday night and high winds could drive wind chills to 40 below zero in some areas before beginning to moderate Friday afternoon, the National Weather Service said.

The blast of Arctic air will arrive Thursday evening and last into the day Friday. Combined with winds of 10-20 mph, it could feel like 40 degrees below zero in the foothills and mountainous areas of Oxford, Franklin and Somerset counties, forecasters said. Wind gusts could reach up to 35 mph in those areas.

The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill warning for those areas beginning at 9 p.m. Thursday, meaning extreme wind chills are almost certain. The affected area stretches from Rumford north to Rangeley, Farmington, Skowhegan and Millinocket. The warning will remain in effect until 11 a.m. Friday, when the high temperature for those areas is expected to crest at 3 below zero.

Portland and other parts of coastal Cumberland County will be under a wind chill watch starting Thursday evening. The watch area stretches from Sanford to Portland and north to Lewiston, Augusta and Rockland. A wind chill watch means there is a 50 percent chance it will feel like 24 degrees below zero around dawn Friday. The actual temperature in Portland is forecast to be about 1 degree below zero early Friday, with highs forecast to reach 11 degrees later in the day. Wind speeds will be 15-25 mph Friday with gusts up to 40 mph.

Nikki Becker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Gray, said Mainers should be prepared on Thursday night and especially Friday for some of the coldest temperatures and worst wind chills the state has experienced this year. Becker said wind speeds will start to increase late Thursday afternoon and will continue into the evening and morning hours.

“We do see temperatures like this, but typically not until mid-January or February,” Becker said. She encouraged people to dress warmly if they have to be outside for any length of time. “Anything you are not prepared for could be dangerous.”

Pat Moody, public affairs manager for AAA Northern New England, said the agency is expecting to field hundreds, if not thousands of calls Friday for dead car batteries and jump starts.

“We are planning to have all hands on deck,” Moody said.

Moody said it never hurts to have a car battery tested to make sure it is in good working order. A battery typically lasts three to five years. He also advises motorists to make sure their gas tanks are filled.

“If you have a lot of room in your tank, condensation can build up and cause it to freeze,” Moody said.

The National Weather Service recommends that motorists carry winter car survival kits that include jumper cables, flares, flashlights with extra batteries, clothes, blankets or sleeping bags, a shovel, an ice scraper, a basic tool kit and a first aid kit.

Once the cold ends, the Portland area will get another storm.

“We are going to see snow on Saturday before it turns to rain and a wintry mix on Saturday night,” Becker said.

Rain is in the forecast for Sunday.


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