AUGUSTA — People crowded into warming centers, power outages hit the region, and the capital city shattered low temperature records on Friday.

According to Stephen Baron, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, the previous record for Feb. 3 in Augusta was minus 13 degrees in 1955. As weekend temperatures began to drop around central Maine, that record also fell as Augusta dipped to minus 16 degrees on Friday.

The Augusta record low for Feb. 4, minus 14 degrees set on 1971, also was broken early Saturday morning when the capital city plunged to minus 17.

“If the temperatures stayed that cool overnight, which I’m sure they did, then it would break today’s record as well,” said Baron on Saturday afternoon.

Baron said that while it was close, no other records were broken in the area.

The all-time lowest temperature ever recorded in Augusta was minus 23 degrees on Feb. 2, 1962.


De-Marro Long, left; Ricky, who did not give a last name; and Genii Bloomquist chat over a lunch of pizza Saturday in a meeting room used as an emergency warming center at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Baron said temperature data for Waterville is not available.

“The records don’t go back very far, and they have a lot of missing data,” he said of Waterville’s temperature data, “so it’s tough to get a reliable reading.”

As arctic conditions swept the region beginning Friday, communities across Kennebec and Somerset counties pulled together to organize warming centers.

The Augusta Civic Center hosted a daytime warming center, which saw a little over a dozen people on average Friday and Saturday.

Melanie Baillargeon, major events coordinator for the Augusta Civic Center, said the warming center does not require registration.

“You walk in as you need something,” she said. “Let’s say you woke up this morning and your furnace was at 30 degrees, just come over. Stay warm.”


Coffee was available for people in the warming center, and several pizzas were delivered for the group of roughly a dozen around noon on Saturday.

Staff members also donated blankets to guests on Friday, while other community organizations stepped up and offered food and cards to help people pass the time.

Nichole Mullens, director of health and welfare for the city of Augusta, had been at the warming center since 7:45 a.m. to ensure everyone’s needs were met.

Some of those needs include connecting people to community resources like the Augusta Overnight Emergency Warming Center, the Bread of Life Ministries homeless shelter, or with organizations that can help provide clothing and food.

Mullens said much of the dialog she’s heard at the center is about how the frigid weather has resulted in the Augusta community coming together.

“That’s been a huge topic of conversation I’ve been hearing today,” she said. “Everybody’s been great helping out one another, and it’s just great to see all the support and care go around the room.”


De-Marro Long, who is originally from North Carolina, was among the roughly dozen people in the warming center Saturday. He said he appreciates the service offered, but that he wishes it was made available sooner.

De-Marro Long chats Saturday in a meeting room used as an emergency warming center at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“People try to target people like us in so many ways, and it’s just really wrong. You can’t target all these people that are trying to better their lives and live on the streets,” said Long. “We live in the capital city. Maine has so much for resources, and they’re just now trying to tap into it, which they should’ve been doing a long time ago.”

Baillargeon said she was happy to be able to help the community.

“I hope we don’t have to see these temperatures again any time soon,” she said. “It’s a privilege and an honor that we get to provide this service for the city and for those that are most at risk.”

In Somerset County, daytime warming centers were open Friday through Sunday in Skowhegan at the community center, and Friday to Saturday in Jackman at the Forest Hills Consolidated School.

Skowhegan police Chief David Bucknam said Saturday that, “so far, knock on wood, everything is going great.” Bucknam said people have been “in and out” of the community center for warmth during the day, and he received no reports of anyone in need of overnight assistance.


“KVCAP is out and about in Skowhegan … providing rides to anybody that needs it,” said Bucknam. “It’s been a good bit of teamwork to keep our citizens safe.”

In Sidney, a warming center at the fire station on West River Road was open all hours between Friday and Saturday.

In the Waterville area, folks found warmth overnight at the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter on Colby Street or in Winslow at the elementary school on Benton Avenue.

Katie Spencer White, CEO of the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, said Thursday that while her organization hopes to solve homelessness, their warming center answers a more immediate question: “How do we keep people alive tonight?”

White said the warming center, open each day from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., does not turn anybody away in adverse or severe conditions, like this weekend.

Typically, White said, the warming center sees about 12 people come in each night. During severe weather, she said numbers might actually be lower, as friends and family come in as “natural supports” in dire circumstances.


Carla Caron, president of The Lighthouse soup kitchen in Waterville, becomes emotional Saturday as she thinks about the people who don’t have a safe, warm place to live as temperatures drop to life-threatening lows around the state. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Most of the people who come to the shelter’s warming center are homeless. Whereas some of those heading to daytime warming centers like The Lighthouse dining area at 38 College Ave. are people conserving their heating oil by going elsewhere in the day, and only turning on their heat when they return at night.

The Lighthouse, run by the Waterville Area Soup Kitchen, extended its regular hours to 5 p.m. each evening through this weekend to serve as a warming center in the day.

Carla Caron, president of The Lighthouse, said they served 159 meals on Friday, and have been regularly serving over 800 a week this winter, their first since opening in May 2022.

“Though our mission is to feed people, we’re growing exponentially, as people’s needs are more than just food,” Caron said, adding they have received bags of donated boots, coats and sweaters from community members after posting on Facebook. She said on Saturday they could still do with more gloves and mittens.

Kristine Wootton received a pair of snow boots from The Lighthouse this winter. She and her friend Carl Sheesley are homeless and have spent the last four nights at the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, which is only an eight-minute walk from The Lighthouse, where they spend their days.

Wootton said that she and Sheesley spend the three hours between The Lighthouse’s closing and the opening of the shelter’s warming center just going in and out of stores around The Concourse in downtown Waterville, trying to keep warm.


“It’s cold. Sucks to be homeless in the cold,” said Wootton.

“We’re just trying to survive,” Sheesley said.

Augusta Overnight Emergency Warming Center Director Julia Stone anticipated the lower temperatures would result in higher numbers of people staying overnight. She said they had made accommodations for up to 40 people overnight and that would have staff on standby to come in and take in more unhoused people if needed.

Because the temperatures are a matter of life and death, she said on Thursday they will “in no way be turning anyone away.”

Stone said on Saturday that a total of 27 stayed at the warming center Friday night.

The cold has been trying for housed Mainers, too. Megan Bowden, 30, lives with her family of five in Waterville in a house that’s more than 100 years old, and said Saturday that she’s been struggling to keep warm.


“I was up round the clock with space heaters and our oven open to try to keep it in the 50s,” Bowden said. “We used blankets and plastic to cover our doors and windows to try hard to prevent things from freezing too much.”

Other residents took to Facebook community pages to report frozen and burst pipes, as well as internet and power outages.

According to Maine CDC data, there were no admissions to the emergency department for cold-related illness in Kennebec County on Friday.

Looking ahead, Baron said warmer days are on the horizon.

“People can look forward to a quick rebound,” he said. “Temperatures are going to be much warmer (Sunday). This was just a quick little cold shot.”

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