The National Weather Service says a January thaw is heading our way after most of Maine suffered through a four-day spell of severe weather that brought subzero temperatures, blizzard conditions and more than a foot of snow.

James Brown, a meteorologist with the weather service office in Gray, said temperatures could climb into the 40s by late this week and possibly hit 50 degrees Friday in some southern parts of the state.

“You could certainly call it that, a classic January thaw,” Brown said Sunday night.

The Farmers’ Almanac published in Lewiston defines the January thaw as a time – typically in mid-January – when winter briefly loosens its icy grip. Jan. 23 is usually the coldest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

Brown said the arctic air mass that was stalled over the Northeast for several days has veered off to the north, opening the door to warmer weather.

The high temperature in Portland could reach 31 degrees Monday, with a few inches of snow mixed in, and Tuesday’s forecast calls for a high of 39 and sunny skies. The high will fall to 32 on Wednesday before soaring into the mid-40s Thursday.

Despite the optimistic forecast, Mainers had to suffer through another day of extreme cold Sunday.

At 7:35 a.m., the mercury dropped to minus 12 at the Portland International Jetport, breaking the old record low for the date of minus 10, set in 1941. It was minus 9 in Augusta, 1 degree off its 1996 record low for Jan. 7 of minus 10.

Other subzero temperatures Sunday in Maine included minus 28 in Fryeburg, minus 12 in Lewiston, and minus 9 in Waterville and Sanford.

No records were broken in the northern part of the state because winds kept the cold from settling on the ground, said Mark Bloomer, a meteorologist at the weather service office in Caribou. It was minus 13 in Caribou on Sunday, well short of the record low for the date of minus 20, set in 1999.

But the three-day cold snap after Thursday’s blizzard was not as severe as the run of frigid weather leading up to it, said Andy Pohl, a meteorologist at the Gray office.

Pohl said the mercury dropped to minus 17 on Jan. 1 at the Portland jetport during a period in which temperatures were at or below 15 degrees for a record seven straight days, from Dec. 27 to Jan. 2. The old record was six consecutive days at 15 degrees or below ending on Feb. 15, 1979.

The coming week should feel almost balmy compared with the past few weeks, Pohl said.

“Everybody was worried we would not get a January thaw, but it kind of looks like we will,” he said.

Even with the prospect of warmer weather heading our way, a few warming centers remained open Sunday. The Brunswick Recreation Department’s warming center at 220 Neptune Drive was open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., and the Cumberland Town Hall warming center on Tuttle Road was scheduled to remain open through Monday.

For the first time in several days, Central Maine Power Co. and Emera Maine reported no power outages Sunday night.

Two major ski resorts in Maine seemed to be excited about the warm-up.

“Bring on the warmer weather, Mother Nature; we’re more than ready and are looking forward to the week ahead,” Sunday River in Newry said Sunday in a post on its Facebook page. “With over a foot of snow across the mountain late last week, there is great coverage and lots of deep snow in the woods.”

“You’re in for a special treat if you plan on hitting the trails tomorrow because temps will be above 20 degrees at the base and it’s going to snow,” Sugarloaf in Carabassett Valley said in a message posted Sunday on its website. “This sweet combination is enough to give anyone a slight shiver of excitement.”

And at the Pineland Farms outdoor recreation center in New Gloucester, a simple message posted on the facility’s website Sunday encouraging cross country skiers to visit, said it all: “We’ve got SNOW!”

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: bquimby

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