A storm expected to drop as much as 8 inches of snow Thursday across central Maine forced the closure of most schools and Legislative offices.

The National Weather Service in Gray predicted accumulations of 4 to 8 inches throughout the region, with the snow expected to end at about 7 p.m.

Daytime temperatures reached about 32 degrees Thursday, but are expected to fall to about 10 degrees at night, with 35 mph wind gusts making it feel like about -7 degrees.

Wind can actually be beneficial to road crews, according to Gardiner Public Works Director Tony Laplante, who said wind, along with salt spread during the day, can help dry roads.

At about 12:30 p.m., Laplante said city roads were in good shape and crews were monitoring them as the snow continued to fall.

“You can get really behind quick in a snow squall,” he said. “We stay on top of it.”

Legislative offices and most schools throughout the Augusta and Waterville areas and Somerset and Franklin counties, along with the University of Maine at Augusta, were closed Thursday, which reduced traffic.

Augusta Deputy Police Chief Kevin Lully said local road crews were keeping the roads clear in the state’s capital.

“Augusta Public Works is doing a great job to try and treat the roads and remain ahead of the weather,” Lully said. “With the limited traffic flow the crashes are not greatly ahead of any other day.”

Friday and this weekend are expected to bring more severe weather, according to the National Weather Service.

Friday is expected to bring sunshine and bitter cold. Meteorologists said high temperatures will reach about 15 degrees and lows could hit 6 degrees below zero, made worse by a nighttime wind chill factor expected to feel like -17 degrees.

Snow is expected to return Saturday afternoon, with another 5 to 8 inches in the forecast for central Maine.

The snow should end Sunday morning, and high temperature are expected to be in the mid-30s, according to forecasters.

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