February 8, 2013

Forecaster says: 'It's going to be tough'

Mainers prepare for what could be the biggest snowstorm to hit parts of the state since 1979.

By Gillian Graham ggraham@pressherald.com
Staff Writer


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AccuWeather's forecast for snow accumulations.

Image courtesy of AccuWeather

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For more detail, click to enlarge this image showing the storm system over New England at 8:15 a.m. Friday. A blizzard of potentially historic proportions threatens to strike the Northeast with a vengeance on Friday with 1 to 2 feet of snow feared along the densely populated Interstate 95 corridor from the New York City area to Maine.

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TO VIEW an up-to-the-minute animated radar map of the snowstorm, click here.

Forecasts of the largest snowstorm to hit parts of Maine since 1979 prompted people to stock up on water and batteries Thursday while transportation officials warned travelers to allow extra time Friday, or just stay at home.

The National Weather Service in Gray said a nor'easter will cause blizzard conditions at times Friday and Saturday, and could drop as much as 2 feet of snow on parts of southern Maine.

That led several school systems, including Scarborough, Westbrook, Kittery and York, to cancel Friday's classes Thursday.

Several flights scheduled to leave the Portland International Jetport on Friday afternoon -- for Newark, N.J., New York and Washington, D.C. -- were also canceled, according to the jetport's website.

The last time Portland got even close to 2 feet of snow was Jan. 17-18, 1979, when 27.1 inches of snow fell.

Eric Schwibs, a meteorologist with the weather service, said the coastal region up to Brunswick and areas as far west as Sanford will be hardest hit by the storm, which is expected to intensify around 6 p.m. Friday and last into Saturday morning.

"The worst of it should be Friday night and early Saturday, with the worst conditions occurring along the coast," Schwibs said.

Schwibs said people in the affected area will likely experience blizzard conditions -- three hours or more with visibility of less than a quarter-mile. Wind gusts could be as strong as 50 mph.

"The winds are going to be howling. It's going to be tough out there," Schwibs said.

The weather service was confident Thursday that almost everyone will get at least 1 foot of snow, and said there is the potential for a town or region to get as much as 2 feet.

Schwibs said the snow should be "on the lighter side," so it will be easier to shovel or ski on than wetter snow.

But the wind will be a problem, continuing to blow the snow around well into Saturday. Schwibs said the wind will make it hard for public works crews to keep snow off the roads.

No rain is being forecast for this storm.

The forecast calling for dry, light snow is good news for Central Maine Power Co. Spokesman John Carroll said rain makes snow heavy enough to down trees and power lines.

He said CMP has already called in contractors from Canada to help its crews restore power.

"The key for us is that we hope it stays cold and that the snow stays dry," Carroll said.

James Budway, director of the Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency, said he and other officials are keeping a close eye on the storm track. A shift of 20 to 30 miles could drastically change the amount of snow the area gets, he said.

"The next 24 hours will be crucial in looking at the storm to see what we'll be doing," he said.

The Maine Turnpike Authority began warning drivers Thursday to pay attention to the conditions and adjust their driving accordingly. The turnpike's Facebook and Twitter pages will be updated regularly with information about road conditions, accidents and delays, said spokesman Dan Morin.

"If you don't need to be out Friday afternoon through Saturday afternoon, we urge you to stay home," Morin said. "This could get quite messy."

The Portland International Jetport has crews and equipment ready and waiting for snow to begin falling, said airport director Paul Bradbury.

The airport's equipment includes five runway sweepers, three large snowblowers, four plows, two front-end loaders and various other pieces designed to clear runways of any snowbanks.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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South Portland Public Works Dept. is busy preparing for the snowstorm..

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer


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