PORTLAND — The National Weather Service has issued a rare blizzard warning for a storm that’s headed to Maine with a nasty combination of heavy snow and strong winds.
The blizzard warning for much of coastal Maine begins Friday afternoon and continues until late Saturday afternoon. The forecast calls for reduced visibility and gusts of up to 45 mph, with snow accumulations reaching 18 to 24 inches deep in parts of the state.
Cempa says the height of the storm will be Friday night and early Saturday, with snow falling at a rate of 2 inches per hour.
“We’re at the point where all the models are doing the same thing, and they’re all giving us a big snow event,” said Tom Hawley, a National Weather Service meteorologist in the agency’s Gray office. “While there’s still a chance it could bob or weave one way or the other and give us a different forecast, I’d say there’s less than a 20 percent chance of that happening.”
That means expectations of more than a foot of snowfall and wind gusts as great as 65 mph during an approximately 24-hour period become a greater certainty the closer the nor’easter comes.
“It still looks like snow starting in Portland before noon tomorrow, getting heavy tomorrow night and ending about noon on Saturday,” Hawley said. “It still looks like about a foot of snow in Portland, maybe more, and quite windy, so a lot of blowing and drifting.”
High temperatures Friday are forecast to be in the low- to mid-20s, he said, with overnight temperatures dipping to about 15 degrees. Saturday will be a bit colder, with highs reaching 20, Hawley said. Friday winds are expected to reach 20 mph, picking up to between 25 and 35 mph overnight and into Saturday, with gusts in coastal areas forecast to whip through at speeds of 65 mph.
Alex Sosnowski, expert senior meteorologist with AccuWeather.com, wrote in a Thursday post that Portland will be among the hardest-hit areas in New England, with dry air feeding in from the north, potentially limiting the advance of the storm into the northernmost parts of Maine.
Nicole Clegg, spokeswoman for the city of Portland, said city officials are scheduled to meet Thursday afternoon “to plan for the next two days.”
“(We’re doing) a lot of equipment checks — snowplows, sidewalk tractors and also emergency vehicles so that we’re sure they can get through,” she said. “We will be loading salt and sand and positioning it in different areas of the city so that it’s available in satellite locations.”
Clegg added that the city is asking residents to give themselves extra travel time or avoid the roads completely during the peak of the storm.
Information from the Associated Press and Bangor Daily News was used in this report.