WATERVILLE — Even as the temperature plummeted to negative numbers Friday, police and fire officials said it was business as usual during the day.

Waterville police Deputy Chief William Bonney said they hadn’t received any specific calls about the bitterly cold weather. He said typically two or three times a winter, they will encounter someone “outside and unable to take care of themselves,” in which case they either bring the person home, to the hospital or to the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter. Representatives from the shelter were not available for comment on how busy the shelter was Thursday night into Friday. Bonney said if a person has nowhere to go, the police will “do everything we can to get them some place warm.”

“It’s not something that happens every time it gets cold,” he said.

According to meteorologist Nikki Becker, of the National Weather Service, the temperature all across Maine fell to an usually frigid level Thursday night and Friday morning. Becker said factoring in wind chill, the low in Waterville was minus 32 degrees Fahrenheit. In Augusta, the low was minus 28 degrees, and in Lewiston it was minus 27 degrees. Becker said without considering wind chill, the low temperature in Waterville was minus 8 degrees.

Fire Department Lt. Scott Holst said aside from a few broken water pipes in residences, there hadn’t been any weather-related problems for the department to respond to. The most common emergency services provided on days like Friday, Holst said, are helping people who either have slipped and fallen or have respiratory problems after being outside too long.

“We’ve been quiet,” Holst said.

Following the cold weather, Becker said, will be a snowfall of 4 to 6 inches Saturday. Over the course of the day, she said, that will transition to a “wintery mix” before turning to rain Sunday. The temperature then is expected to rise back up then.

The cold also presented problems for drivers across New England. Pat Moody, the spokesperson for AAA, said the Northern New England branch of the travel organization, which covers Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, had responded to 3,000 calls. On a typical winter day, he said Northern New England staffers might respond to 1,800 calls. He projected that by the end of the day, AAA would have responded to “double or triple” the usual number of calls.

“It’s been a busy day,” Moody said.

The most common call AAA received Friday involved batteries. Moody said a battery loses about 60 percent of its starting power when the temperature drops below zero. Most of the calls were from drivers needing their batteries either jumped or replaced; and in metropolitan areas, Moody said, AAA drivers offer a battery replacement service. A battery lasts three to five years, and Moody said AAA recommends that anyone who has difficulty starting a vehicle in the cold see if its battery needs to be replaced.

Moody said AAA staffers also have been responding to a lot of calls about tire pressure. For every 10-degree drop in temperature, Moody said, a tire will lose about a pound of pressure. He said in most cases this is not usually an emergency situation, but a number of customers called after seeing their air pressure gauge in their car activate.

“When it gets this cold, all components of the car have to work harder,” Moody said.

Despite the harsh elements, virtually all the lights in the area remained on. Gail Rice, a Central Maine Power spokeswoman, said the company hadn’t received many calls about power outages in the Waterville area. It did have a problem farther north in the state, where thousands of customers lost power after a tree fell on a transformer.

Mark Turner, director of public works in Waterville, said his department hadn’t had to respond to any cold weather-related calls, but it was preparing for the upcoming snowfall.

“We’re just standing by for the first signs of snowfall and precipitation for tomorrow,” Turner said. “It’s been fairly quiet today. We’re just getting ready for things.”

Although Becker predicted a warm-up over the weekend, Turner said with all the cold weather, it would be difficult for the warmer air to have a big effect. He said that could mean a long night for Public Works, especially if the precipitation continues through the night.

“If it continues and turns to rain with cold temperatures, it could get pretty difficult for slippery roads and icy conditions,” he said.

The winter weather also will affect holiday events in downtown Waterville. Kringleville, a long-standing tradition in which families can meet Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, is canceled for Saturday because of the expected storm. Kringleville will resume its regular business hours Sunday, from 1 to 5 p.m.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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