Deep snow lines the way Wednesday for walkers at The Concourse in downtown Waterville. Temperatures dipped into the single digits Wednesday morning, with subzero temperatures in the forecast for Friday and Saturday. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

As the state braces for a cold snap this week that is expected to see temperatures plunge to well below zero, residents across central Maine are preparing for the bitter cold as officials set up warming centers, postpone outdoor events and urge people to stay indoors.

Everyone — from plumbers to dairy farmers — is bracing in different ways for the frigid temperatures.

While Maine typically sees an arctic intrusion every year, it is not usually as intense as the temperatures expected later this week, said Stephen Baron, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. The arctic conditions expected Friday and Saturday fall into the extreme cold category, Baron said, the likes of which is usually seen every decade or so.

The extreme cold could seem especially brutal because Mainers a few weeks ago were experiencing seasonally mild temperatures. Portland and Augusta have likely experienced the warmest January on record, Baron said.

In Augusta, the lowest recorded temperature for Feb. 4 was minus 13 in 1971, according to daily temperature data from the Maine Climate Office.

In Waterville, the lowest temperature for the same day was minus 22 in 1985.


The normal temperature range for both areas is 8 to 31 degrees.

With both central Maine cities expecting temperatures of about minus 20 on Friday into Saturday, with wind chill factors hitting the minus 30s to minus 40s, officials said it could certainly amount to record winter weather.

Some winter activities have already been canceled because of the subzero temperatures, such as several high school skiing events, including the Oxford Hills Sprints and Leavitt GS International, which were both scheduled for Saturday.

The 11th annual Maine Pond Hockey Classic in Sidney, to be held at the Snow Pond Center for the Arts, was scheduled to run Friday through Sunday, but has been postponed to weekend of Feb. 10-12.

A truck is northbound Wednesday on Water Street, overlooking the Kennebec River in Randolph. Ice has been forming on the river with the recent spate of cold weather. Temperatures are expected to plunge to minus 20 on Friday and Saturday, marking the first subzero conditions of the winter. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“The weekend’s forecast calls for temperatures that are as low as minus 40 degrees with the wind chill, which would be unsafe for tournament participants, so we have postponed the tournament for a week to give time for the expected cold snap to subside,” Patrick Guerette, the hockey tournament’s director, wrote in a statement to the news media.

Some municipalities have prepared warming centers for the two coldest days. The city of Augusta is set to open a daytime warming center at the Augusta Civic Center at 76 Community Drive, to be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 7 a.m. until 12 p.m. on Sunday.


In Waterville, The Lighthouse dining area, run by the Waterville Area Soup Kitchen at 38 College Ave., is scheduled to remain open until 5 p.m. Friday and be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley clubhouse at 14 Pray St. in Gardiner also will be open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Coffee, tea and water will be available all day, but people need to bring their own food. The dining hall will be open with tables and chairs and the gym will be open for basketball and walking.

Art True, director of the Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency, said if a community does not have a warming center, the agency is encouraging officials to have one on standby.

Evelyn Laws, 8, embraces the cold temperatures Tuesday while sledding at North Street Park in Waterville. Subzero temperatures are in the forecast for Friday and Saturday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Area and state officials are encouraging residents to stay inside as much as possible during the bitter cold, and to make sure others are safe and well.

“Temperatures this weekend will be extremely — and dangerously — cold across the state,” Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement released by the Maine Emergency Management Agency. “Please take extra precautions, be careful if you go outside and be sure to check on your family, friends and neighbors to make sure they are OK.”

Residents should keep pets inside, officials said, and if people must go outside, they should wear multiple loose layers and cover all skin. Those traveling in automobiles should have an emergency kit with blankets, food, water, a cellphone charger and a flashlight.


Some government and community services will be impacted by the frigid weather. In Richmond, the holding area that takes recyclables from residents will be closed Saturday, and the café at the Mount Vernon Community Center is also expected to be closed.

With the extreme cold, there is a chance of freezing pipes, especially at older homes that are not adequately insulated, said Jim Robinson, president of Mainely Plumbing & Heating Inc. at 674 Main St. in Gorham.

Robinson said homes with mini-splits in the plumbing should maintain heat near those pipes because they are prone to freezing.

Robinson said homeowners should prepare for extreme cold by making sure basements and other areas are properly insulated to prevent pipes from freezing.

Snow lines the walkways Wednesday for pedestrians at The Concourse in downtown Waterville. Temperatures dipped into the single digits Wednesday morning, with subzero temperatures in the forecast for Friday and Saturday. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

He said his company typically has one person on call 24 hours a day, but with the coming cold, he plans to ask all of his employees to be on call so they can respond to emergencies. Hopefully, he said, things do not get too bad this week, given the cold snap is expected to last only through Saturday.

Some residents might be wondering how Maine’s dairy farms handle frigid weather. The cows tend to do fine in cold temperatures, said Jenni Tilton-Flood, a dairy farmer in Clinton, but the weather creates greater challenges for those who work the farms.

“The cold weather presents challenges to us ensuring (cows) have the access to water and food they need, and while it takes longer (everything from equipment to us humans moves slower when it’s super cold) and is harder on us to do the daily tasks, they get done,” Tilton-Flood wrote in an email.

The sentiment was echoed by Annie Watson, president of the Maine Dairy Industry Association in Augusta. Watson said the concern for cows safety in winter is not typically about the cold temperatures, but, instead, about icy and unstable ground, because if a cow falls, it could cause serious injuries.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the expanded hours of Augusta’s warming center and the opening of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kennebec Valley clubhouse on Saturday. 

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