The first major snowstorm of February is taking aim at the entire state, with forecasters predicting heavy snow in the afternoon and evening on Wednesday before the storm ends early Thursday.

Meteorologist James Brown of the National Weather Service in Gray said most of the state can expect a quick-moving storm that will dump 8 to 12 inches of snow.

Brown said light snow will start falling in the Portland area by mid-morning. The storm will intensify around 2 p.m. and come down at a rate of 1 to 2 inches an hour before tapering off around 8 p.m. Snow is expected to end around 1 a.m. Thursday.

“It’s going to be a really fast moving storm when you consider that the heaviest snow will be falling for only six hours,” Brown said.

Brown said drivers should try to stay off the roads during the storm’s peak, adding that the evening commute “is looking pretty horrible.”

Though winds will be minimal, snow will fall so fast it could significantly reduce driver visibility, Brown warned.

The National Weather Service says precipitation along the Maine and New Hampshire border could turn into a mix of sleet and rain with snow accumulations lower in places like Kittery and York than in the rest of the state.

On Tuesday evening, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning from 8 a.m. Wednesday through 3 a.m. Thursday.

“Heavy snow expected. Travel will be very difficult to impossible, including during the evening commute on Wednesday,” the warning states.

Brown said temperatures will be in the mid-20s throughout the day Wednesday, and Thursday’s forecast calls for a return to nicer weather, with a high in the 20s and mostly sunny skies.

Several schools and businesses on Tuesday announced they would not be open or would be closing early on Wednesday.

Schools in Kittery, Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor, Georgetown, Sanford, Regional School Unit 5 in Freeport, Wiscasset, Wells-Ogunquit and Yarmouth will have early class dismissals. The University of Southern Maine will close at 12:15 p.m.

Cumberland County District and Superior Courts as well as the Maine Supreme Judicial Court will be closed Wednesday. The Maine Legislature postponed all committee meetings after 12 p.m.

Parking bans were announced Tuesday in Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Gorham, Yarmouth, Saco, Sanford, Lisbon, Auburn, Windham and Biddeford.

Not everyone was lamenting the fact that they would have to break out the snow shovels and snowblowers.

Sunday River ski resort in Newry posted a weather map on its Facebook page that showed the region would receive 7 to 11 inches of snow on Wednesday. “Make way for another storm,” Sunday River posted.

“If school is canceled in Lewiston and Auburn on Wednesday, then we’re opening at noon! Epic ski days ahead!” Lost Valley Ski Area posted on its Facebook page.

“It’s snowing. A sneak peak of tomorrow’s big event,” Shawnee Peak in Bridgton wrote on its Facebook page.

Central Maine has already seen several storms. As of Tuesday, a total of 39.6 inches of snow had fallen so far this season in Gardiner, according to the weather service. Of that, 17 inches had accumulated in 2018.

Public works departments throughout central Maine were mobilizing crews and preparing for a busy day Wednesday, and they are expecting to spend Thursday and the weekend cleaning up the roads and sidewalks and parking lots around the region.

Augusta Public Works director Lesley Jones said the storm is nothing out of the ordinary, and she’s trying to schedule her crews to work when the storm will be at its heaviest.

“We’re trying to plan a crew that can stay later in the day, because there is the potential for intense snow later in the afternoon,” Jones said.

Mark Turner, the director of Public Works in Waterville, hoped Wednesday’s storm would just be snow and not involve any mixed precipitation, such as freezing rain, because that’s when the plow truck drivers have the most trouble.

And with all of the rain and ice the area has received this winter, the city could run low on sand and salt.

“We’re in pretty good shape right now,” he said. “If we continue to get the freezing rain, that’s going to eat through our supply.”

That was the case for the public works crew in Winslow, as well.

“We have used a lot of sand and salt for this time of year,” Paul Fongemie, the department’s director, said Tuesday. “We’re going through our budget more quickly than we’d like.”

Fongemie said crews will try to use as little salt as possible Wednesday so they don’t run out before the weekend, when more snow is predicted for the region.

Salt and sand concerns aside, both Turner and Fongemie said their crews are rested and ready for the storm ahead.

“We’re ready for anything,” Turner said.

Staff writer Emily Higginbotham contributed reporting.

Jason Pafundi can be contacted at 621-5663 okr at:

[email protected]

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

[email protected]

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