AUGUSTA — Near-blizzard conditions are possible at times Saturday in central Maine as a forecasted snowstorm moves across the northeast, blowing in with high wind gusts and nearly a foot of snow.

The National Weather Service in Gray, which hasn’t issued a blizzard warning for central and southern Maine since March 2018, is forecasting the potential for blizzard conditions from the nor’easter. In order to be considered a blizzard, wind speeds have to be above 35 mph in addition to a low-visibility rate for at least three consecutive hours.

Meanwhile, the Augusta and Waterville areas are expected to see the largest snowfall totals so far this winter season, even as officials continued to monitor the nor’easter’s developing track and potential snowfall. In general, coastal areas were expected to see more than a foot of snow, with the snowfall amounts diminishing farther inland.

As of Thursday afternoon’s forecast, the Augusta area should expect snow to start around midday on Saturday, according to Chris Legro, a meteorologist at the weather service in Gray. Wind gusts will range from 20 to 25 mph, and at times could approach 40 mph, with most snow totals in the capital region ranging between 8 to 10 inches.

The Waterville area is anticipated to see a similar amount of snow as Augusta, although the wind gusts might be lighter, Legro said. The Skowhegan area will see the least amount of snow, around 6 to 9 inches, since the storm will hit hardest to regions closer to Maine’s coast. The Portland area could see 9 to 12 inches of snow and 40 mph winds.

“We are still paying attention to changes in the (storm’s) track with the weather model,” Legro said. “Small changes in track could increase or move farther into the sea, they could come down. We are walking a fine line right now with the gradient running through the area.”

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Legro predicts driving conditions will be difficult, if not “impossible” at times due to the snow falling at speeds of 1-2 inches per hour, and the high wind speeds. He described those as “near-blizzard” or “whiteout” conditions.

The weather service in Gray issued a winter storm watch for the central Maine area from 7 a.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Sunday.

Sean Goodwin, director of the Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency, said his team is preparing for the storm by making contact with the towns in Kennebec County and with Central Maine Power Co. in the event the high wind gusts knock out power.

The trucks have “gotten a good workout” in the past couple of weeks clearing the slush and small accumulations of snow, Goodwin said, adding that the trucks are ready for this weekend.

“We have to plan for the worst and hope for the best,” he said. “Hope is not a plan.”

He also reminded people to prepare for the storm and to be smart when clearing snow, especially if people attempt to clear snow off their roofs. In some cases, the snow can come crashing down and block an entrance.

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“Of all things, make sure you have water and food to prepare for stuff like this,” he said. “And a can opener — you can’t open a can without one.”

Lesley Jones, public works director for the city of Augusta, said on Thursday that the city is starting to clear snow from sidewalks and streets to make room for the fresh snowfall this weekend. She said the public works department is getting their equipment ready and will make a decision on a citywide parking ban once snowfall amounts are final.

Matt Skehan, director of Waterville Public Works and Waterville Parks and Recreation, said that no extra preparations have been put in place ahead of Saturday’s storm. “The snow totals are high, but we’re encouraged not to see any mixing in the forecast,” Skehan said. “It gets tricky once you add ice and sleet to the mix.”

All plows are ready to go shortly after the snow starts to fall Saturday morning, Skehan said. Though roads and sidewalks may not be ideal for commuting, he said the Quarry Road Trails will be open and groomed throughout the weekend for those looking to enjoy the winter weather.

Gardiner issued a parking ban on all city streets beginning Saturday at 6 p.m. and ending Sunday at noon. According to the town, all vehicles must be parked in a driveway, in the Arcade Parking Lot, or down at the Waterfront with a property owner’s permission. Vehicles in violation will receive a ticket and if in the way of snow removal, will be towed.

The town of Richmond put a parking ban in place from Saturday at noon to Monday at noon due to snow and the clean-up it will cause.

Morning Sentinel Reporter Taylor Abbott contributed to this report.

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