(WGME snow map)

Most of Maine is expected to be blanketed by 12-18 inches of fresh snow and maybe up to two feet in some areas by the end of the day Sunday.

(National Weather Service map)

The powerful winter storm, which will hit the southern tip of Maine late Saturday night and continue uninterrupted throughout the day Sunday, is likely to be the largest of the 2018-19 season.

“This is definitely shaping up to be the biggest snow producer,” said Derek Schroeter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Gray.

But Schroeter said he couldn’t share any details about past storms or where this winter stacks up so far in terms of snowfall. Because of the government shutdown, now into its fifth week, he said weather service employees are restricted from talking about anything but current forecasts. The National Weather Service is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce

There were a handful of measurable snow events in November, before the official start of winter, and some this month as well, but the season has yet to see more than 6-8 inches in any one storm.

Friday could see some minor snowfall, too, setting the stage for the big one. Schroeter said the impending storm could shift as it moves east. In one scenario, he said, it will result in snow turning to sleet, which would bring snowfall amounts down.

“But it’s going to be big heavy snow, for the most part, with some strong winds, especially along the coast,” he said. “It’s going to be hard to keep the roads clear.”

Some areas could be at risk of flooding because of astronomically high tides. Jessica Grondin, spokeswoman for the City of Portland, said officials are preparing for potential flooding. She also said she expected that a parking ban would be in effect for Sunday evening and encouraged peninsula residents to make arrangements to move their vehicles as early as possible.

The storm’s timing is fortuitous. Many sports fans will be happy to stay holed up on Sunday because both National Football League championship games will be televised, including one that will feature the local New England Patriots. The only problem would be if there are widespread power outages, which is a distinct possibility.

Monday also is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a holiday for many, including schools throughout Maine. Plenty of time for people to dig out.

Ted Talbot, spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation, said a weekend storm helps their drivers, too.

“Anytime we have less traffic on the road, we’re able to keep up or get ahead,” he said. “When there is a lot of congestion on the roads, that’s when it’s a challenge.”

With the storm coming, the American Red Cross of Maine is reminding people to stay safe, warning against using space heaters unattended and making sure people dress appropriately when outdoors to avoid frostbite and hypothermia.

Talbot said because there is plenty of advance notice for this storm, the DOT can plan, which is a bonus.

“We’ll be meeting (Friday) to set a rotation of drivers. Everyone’s ready,” he said.

Talbot said so far this season, DOT has used more salt and sand to this point than in years past but it’s too early to tell if that will continue through spring.

Schroeter said that immediately following the storm, a cold air mass will settle in, which will result in bitter cold temperatures on Monday.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

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Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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