January 2

Central Maine seized by deep freeze

Pet owners asked to take precautions as National Weather Service predicts up to 8 inches of snow, wind chills of minus 35 by Friday morning.

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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COLD FEET: Pam Nichols, kennel manager at the Humane Society Waterville Area, with a pit bull that was recently found with frostbitten feet and ears. Shelter workers named the dog Chance because it has received a second chance in life.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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WARM PAWS: Wanda, a three-year-old mutt, wears booties to help protect her paws while on a walk with Katrina Lavoie at the Humane Society Waterville Area on Thursday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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“This will result in frostbite or lead to hypothermia or death if precautions are not taken,” warned the weather service. “If you must go outside, dress in layers and keep all your skin and your head covered.”

The advisory, in effect until 1 p.m. Friday, also asked that animal owners protect their livestock and move pets inside.

Curtis said the cold will lose some of its bite as the week ends.

“The good news is the snow and the wind will end Friday morning,” she said. Friday will have highs in the single digits, while Friday night will see lows of 15 below. On Saturday, the high will be near 20 degrees, and on Sunday, the high will be in the upper 20s.

“Twenty never sounded so warm,” Curtis said.

The layer of ice that has been coating trees in central Maine since the ice storm that began Dec. 22 will stick around into the weekend. Curtis said on Monday, the temperature will finally go above freezing for the first time in more than a week, which could melt much of the ice and relieve some of the stress on the trees.

Even skiers, mariners shun cold

Outside Portland, the Smiling Hill cross-country ski center closed for the day, saying bitter cold and wind gusts made conditions too dangerous even for winter sports enthusiasts.

“It sounds counterintuitive to close cross-country skiing and snowshoeing due to snow and a blizzard. But if you get people on the trail in whiteout conditions, there’s a possibility they can’t make it back. Then it’s a rescue operation,” Warren Knight said, explaining the decision to close the 500-acre farm.

Most people were simply staying inside to stay warm. That included all but the hardiest of skiers.

“The skiing is actually pretty good and all of our lifts are running. But people tend to stay inside when it gets this far below zero,” said Ethan Austin, spokesman for Sugarloaf. “You’ve got to bundle up.”

Mariners also had to contend with the unusual cold and resultant ice.

A freezing spray advisory was in effect for commercial fishing boats operating in the North Atlantic, where temperatures were so cold that fishing boats could accumulate nearly an inch of ice per hour, according to John Cannon, meteorologist from the National Weather Service office in Gray.

Protect your pets

At the shelter, Ross said dogs were being taken out to go to the bathroom very quickly, rather than being allowed time to play outside.

Some were having their feet protected with booties, even for the short walks.

Ross urged pet owners who are used to keeping their pets outside to recognize the extreme temperatures and make sure their dogs and cats are comfortable.

Even cold-loving dogs like huskies and Chows need to have adequate shelter, including a raised bed in a completely enclosed shelter that has no open faces or severe drafts.

“It’s got to be so that the elements can’t get inside,” she said.

She recommended hay over blankets, because blankets absorb water and get wet more easily, making it colder.

Short-haired breeds need a heated shelter, she said. When they go outside, they should be protected with sweaters and booties.

All dogs should be given a little more food than usual, and owners should work hard to make sure they have access to clean water.

“It’s difficult when you put it outside, because it’s going to freeze,” she said. “You have to keep swapping them out.”

Some dogs will eat snow in desperation, she said, but that just lowers their internal temperatures more.

In severe cold, food that is put outside for pets is also more likely to attract wild animals that are more desperate than usual to find food.

For Chance, the pit bull found on a road, life’s problems will go beyond frostbite.

It will take time for him to gain enough weight to recover, and his mental scars will likely last even longer. At the Humane Society, Nichols and Ross said he is so frightened of people, other animals and noises that he can usually be found cowering under his bed.

But he seems to have at least a chance at a brighter future.

The couple that found Chance were in mourning because their own dog had died recently, Ross said. They had decided that they weren’t going to get another dog, but they’re having second thoughts.

“Now,” she said, “they are interested in possibly adopting him.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287 mhhetling@centralmaine.com Twitter: @hh_matt

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

COLD FEET: Paul Marquis walks his three-year old shih tzu, Isabella Rose, along Gilman Street in Waterville on Thursday. Marquis said the cold weather has cut his walk of three miles a day to one. “Her feet can’t handle the cold on days like this,” he said.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

click image to enlarge

WARM PAWS: Wanda, a three-year-old mutt, wears booties to help protect her paws while on a walk with Katrina Lavoie at the Humane Society Waterville Area on Thursday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

 


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