Following a snowstorm-filled long holiday weekend, central Mainers are now bracing for bone-chilling temperatures that could plummet some 30 degrees below average.

That’s prompting area officials to warn about the dangers of frostbite and ask that people prepare for the frigid weather.

The high temperature in the area this time of year is usually around 30 degrees with lows in the mid-teens, but on Tuesday highs were expected to rise only in the low 20s. Highs for Wednesday and Thursday are expected to only reach the single-digits, according to Meteorologist Andy Pohl, of the National Weather Service in Gray.

Along the way, subzero temperatures will grip the region at night.

“We’ll get colder and colder right through Thursday,” Pohl said. “By Thursday, the high will be between zero and 5-degrees, and the low temperatures Thursday night into Friday will be between 10- and 20-degrees below (zero).”

The cold temperatures come on the heels of an intense but brief Christmas Day storm that brought whiteout conditions and prompted the National Weather Service to issue a blizzard warning for the entire state as more than a foot of snow fell in some areas.

There were 10 inches of snowfall recorded in Winslow, 11 inches in Mount Vernon, and 8 inches in Hallowell, according to the National Weather Service. Norridgewock and Auburn had 12 and 14.5 inches of snow, respectively.

But now it will be dangerously cold the next few days for people who have to be outside for any period of time, especially people working outside. Pohl said anybody who has to be on the road should make sure to have a winter weather safety kit in their vehicle. His kit includes extra gloves and socks, a hat, candles, candy bars and blankets.

Pohl said it’s tough to predict whether any records will be set by this bout of colder-than-normal temperatures, but it will be a “significant departure from normal” the next few days. There isn’t any more snow in the immediate forecast, but it is going to be bitterly cold.

“Think of your pets, because you don’t want to leave dogs outdoors,” he said. “If they have to go outside, make sure it’s for a shorter time. Their paws get pretty tender walking around when it’s that cold.”

Sugarloaf ski resort in Carrabassett Valley received 10 inches of fresh snow Monday on top of the nearly 2 feet of snow that fell there in the past two weeks. This week is one of the busiest of the season for the ski resort and the cold temperatures aren’t likely to deter skiers, said Ethan Austin, director of marketing at Sugarloaf. He suggests skiers don’t leave skin exposed and take frequent breaks to warm up.

“(The forecast) is not ideal like we’d like to see, but the fortunate thing is the snow is incredible,” Austin said. “The skiing is really good and as long as people bundle up they’ll have a great time.”

The cold snap led to an unusually high number of calls for service for AAA, according to spokesman Patrick Moody. By Tuesday afternoon, the company had 3,330 service calls in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, considerably higher than an average winter day of 1,500 to 2,000 calls.

“We’re anticipating the rest of the week with temperatures dropping to negative digits it will be extremely busy as well,” Moody said.

Moody said most of the calls were for people who needed help getting out of snowy driveways, had dead car batteries or had locked their keys in the car while warming it up. He suggested people check car batteries that are more than a couple years old to make sure they are properly charged.

The National Weather Services says people should prepare for the cold temperatures by knowing the signs of both frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite can happen in minutes skin is exposed to extreme cold temperatures, while hypothermia sets in when body temperatures sink below 60 degrees. The weather services advises people to keep skin covered, stay inside when possible and drink fluids because hydration increases the blood’s volume.

Pohl also suggested people consider putting a winter safety kit in their car that includes extra gloves and hats, blanket, a flashlight with battery, snacks, socks and a cellphone charger.

In Augusta, the Augusta Community Warming Center — in the St. Mark’s Parish Hall — is preparing for an increase in visitors during the extreme cold spell. The warming center, at 9 Pleasant St., is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sarah Miller, project director of Bridging the Gap, the parent organization of the warming center, said the center is fully stocked with winter coats for adults and children, along with hats, socks, scarves, gloves, mittens, boots, blankets and sleeping bags.

“We are always looking for more and can always use more of those things,” Miller said Tuesday morning. “We have tangible goods that will come in handy during subzero temperatures.”

Callie Boynton, of Fielding’s Oil and Propane in Augusta, said No. 2 heating oil is about $2.65 per gallon and kerosene is about $3.15 right now. She urged people to make sure they have enough to heat their homes during this upcoming blast of cold air. She said people should make sure they have their windows insulated and the shades drawn.

“(It’s good) to keep the thermostat set to one temperature rather than varying it throughout the day because that’ll keep the furnace from having to kick on,” Boynton said.

Fielding’s is caught up on their deliveries, she said, and should be able to make a delivery within a day or two after an order is placed.

“People sometimes will call us just because there’s cold weather (in the forecast),” she said. “These are the busiest months, January, February and March, and people are probably getting 100 gallons on month.”

The Augusta warming center has been preparing the facility for the added people the decreasing temperatures may bring in the coming days. Miller said the walkways and sidewalks have been cleared and they have maintenance people ready for any additional work that may be needed.

Miller estimated the warming center, the clothing bank and the essentials pantry together served about 3,500 people over the seasons. Since the center opened earlier this month, Miller said they’ve had anywhere from 24-30 individuals coming into the center daily. She expects there will be more in the next few days.

“I think we’ll plan for that and keep that in mind,” she said. “We definitely prepare when we know there’s weather coming and we make sure all our resources are stocked up.

“We want to welcome as many people that need to come in,” Miller said.

The warming center has a children’s play area, as well as a separate child-free area for adults, and the general area where both adults and children are welcome. People can play games, watch DVDs on a television set, or just spend time chatting with others.

The St. Mark’s Episcopal Church property, where Bridging the Gap’s services are located, was put up for sale by the former church in 2016. Officials said maintaining the aging facility was too costly.

City officials have said the social services provided by the warming center, the clothing bank and the essentials pantry cannot continue to be provided long-term at the St. Mark’s site because city zoning rules don’t allow those services in that zone.

Bridging the Gap and the warming center’s services are funded by numerous sources, including multiple local church congregations, income from an endowment of about $600,000 made up of the proceeds of the sale of St. Mark’s Home, individuals, businesses, and funded by the United Way of Kennebec Valley as a partner agency.

Portland Press Herald staff writer Gillian Graham contributed reporting.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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