With the first snowflakes still more than 24 hours off, Reny’s Inc. sent off an email to its list of “Maine Adventurers” late Wednesday morning.

“We want them to know we still have winter supplies for sale,” said Mary Kate Reny, marketing director for the department store chain. “We decided we’re just going to do a blast email.”

Reny, like just about every other Maine resident, has her eye on forecasts about a nor’easter that’s expected to dump a foot or more of snow across most of the state from Wednesday afternoon to Thursday evening. It comes only five days after another storm brought high wind and flooding to southern Maine.

While Easter goods fill the stores’ end caps and gardening supplies fill the main aisles at Reny’s 16 stores in coastal and central Maine, the chain wanted to let its customers know it still has shovels, sleds, scrapers and salt in stock.

They might need them.

James Brown, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service’s office in Gray, said snow is expected to start falling in the Augusta area after 4 p.m. Wednesday, and the storm’s intensity is expected to pick up during the evening and continue through the morning.

“It’s going to be snowing for quite a while,” Brown said. The storm will be over during the day on Thursday, with snow showers continuing up over the mountains into the evening.

Forecasts still call for accumulations of 12 inches to 18 inches, he said. In southern and central Maine, the snow is expected to be heavy and wet. But from Waterville north, the snow is expected to be a bit drier.

Temperature is expected to remain fairly constant during the storm, hovering around freezing. After the snow clears out, Brown said, Friday’s daytime temperature will be in the 40s.

It’s not clear what additional hazards the storm will bring.

Sean Goodwin, Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency director, said the timing of wind could determine whether power outages occur.

“We have concerns about the snow, timing and when the wind starts,” Goodwin said. “Wind has a tendency to blow snow out of the trees and off the power lines. But if you get snow and then the wind picks up, we have more concern about power outages.”

Cities and towns also are taking stock of what they have and what they need after a winter that has brought blizzards and record-breaking frigid temperature to the region.

The long winter storm season has taken its toll on the Winslow Public Works budget for the year.

“My overtime account is overdrawn, salt budget is overdrawn and the repair budget is overdrawn,” Paul Fongemie, the town’s public works director, said Tuesday. “We’re in the red, but we won’t stop plowing.”

Fongemie said his crew has seen a lot of overtime this winter, but the workers are still ready to go when the snow starts falling Wednesday.

As a precaution, the department has canceled Thursday curbside trash collection and postponed it until Friday so the entire crew can focus on snow removal.

Waterville has endured a similar hit to its overtime budget because of the number of storms the region has had this year.

“We’re on storm 25,” said Mark Turner, the city’s public works director. “The frequency of the storms and when they occur have been a factor in how expenditures have played out.”

He cited the large number of nighttime, holiday and weekend storms as the reason for his crew clocking so many overtime hours.

At this point in the year, Turner said, his crew has had its fill of snow. Nevertheless, the workers are ready to plow the heavy, wet snow that is expected to fall in the coming days.

For retailers such as Reny’s, merchandising during the changing seasons is a balancing act.

Brown noted that March is a variable month. Some years it’s warm and dry, and in others the snow continues to fall.

“We’re a Maine department store,” Reny said. “We know that March falls closer to spring, but we all know better than to think winter is over. No successful retailer wants a ton of winter things left over.”

But because winter tends to hang on, they keep some items in stock. While any shovels left at the end of a winter season can be sold during the next winter season, there are costs associated with storing out-of-season items.

“We really have a handle on the Maine seasons,” she said. “Rarely will we be empty-handed.”

So if schools are closed on Thursday and families are looking for some inexpensive, seasonal fun, she said, Reny’s will be selling sleds.

Even before this storm arrives, meteorologists are watching the next storm in the pipeline.

“The next thing to come by is maybe Tuesday,” Brown said. That system would move in from the west, and it won’t be picking up much moisture.

“With the profile right now, it could easily be snow,” he said.

If it arrives Tuesday, it will occur exactly a week before spring arrives. The vernal equinox will occur at 12:15 p.m. March 20.

Staff writer Emily Higginbotham contributed to this story.

 

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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