Auburn Public Works employee Andy Gagnon guides equipment operator Per Tripp on Friday morning as they attach the last blade to a truck in the Auburn garage before the weekend storm. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

For a week, meteorologists have been struggling to describe the coming storm for a populace that demands firm answers. 

Would it be whopper? A dusting? Something in between? 

Mike Haggett, who runs Pine Tree Weather, has been warning for a week that the weekend storm has potential to be substantial. 

On Friday, he hadn’t changed his mind. 

“It’s game on for a blizzard,” he wrote in his report Friday morning. 

There were some caveats, however. Haggett said that while there may be a lot of snow, it probably won’t be of the wet variety that sticks to trees, and with no icing event forecast, the overall impact might be less severe than some earlier storms. 

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“Yes, there will be copious amounts of snow,” Haggett wrote. “Yes, there will be wind to blow it around.  As these types of events go, this region has seen far worse on a much smaller scale.” 

But with a true blizzard on the way, weather experts were advising people to plan on hunkering down Friday night through Sunday afternoon wherever possible. Travel during the peak of the storm, one meteorologist warned, would be “very difficult to impossible.” 

“Snow will spread from south to north Saturday morning with the period of heaviest snow and strong winds around noon through midnight,” according to the National Weather Service. “Snowfall rates of 1-2 inches per hour are possible, especially along the coast with wind gusts over 50 mph possible creating low visibility for periods.” 

How much snow are we talking about when all is said and done? By Friday afternoon, most forecasts called for between 12 to 18 inches along the coast with 8 to 12 inches predicted farther inland. 

Parking bans were announced pretty much everywhere by Friday morning and those bans are expected to stay in effect into Sunday. 

In Lewiston, where a parking ban was in effect from 1 a.m. Saturday until 7 a.m. Sunday, public works officials were hoping for mass compliance so their crews can get ahead of the storm. They were working closely with local towing companies as part of that plan. 

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“Towing will start promptly at 1 a.m. to get cars off the road before the snow starts,” Lewiston Public Works Director Mary A. Brenchick said Friday afternoon. “This is to allow time for police and the towing companies to do their work before our trucks are plowing. We struggle with cars coming back to park on the street if they think we have gone by already. They need to stay off these parking areas for the whole parking ban.” 

Brenchick pointed out that parking in the city garages is free while the street parking ban is in effect. 

The city also had plans for salting and sanding as well as clearing sidewalks. Over the past week, public works crews cleared close to 4,000 cubic yards of snow and ice from city sidewalks. Now they are prepared to do it again. 

As usual before a storm, the run was on for all the items considered necessary for a hunker-down scenario. Bread, milk and toilet paper were vanishing quickly from store shelves. 

At area hardware stores, people were advised to grab all the essentials for snow survival while they are still in stock. 

“Stop in and grab everything you need to make it through the storm!” Wilton Hardware advised, on its company Facebook page Friday afternoon. “We have plenty of shovels, scoops, roof rakes and shear pins in stock!” 

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Not to mention sand buckets, ice melt, wood pellets and heat tape. 

With heavy snow and high winds sure to wreak havoc with power lines, Central Maine Power reported they have 200 of their lineworkers, about 320 contracted lineworkers and 124 tree workers pre-positioning across the state so they are ready when the storm hits Saturday morning. 

CMP said it has coordinated with the Maine Emergency Management Agency, county emergency management agencies, and local municipalities “to understand local restoration priorities and any safety concerns.” 

It’s not just Maine this time. The East Coast from Virginia to Maine is expected to get pummeled by the coming storm. 

“A powerful Nor’easter storm is expected to hammer New England and the Middle Atlantic region this weekend with blizzard-like conditions and up to 2 feet of snow, making travel treacherous and bringing flooding to coastal areas,” Reuters reported Friday afternoon.  

The National Weather Service on Friday issued a blizzard warning for the Boston metropolitan area. An estimated 24 inches of powdery snow were expected in that area along with wind gusts of up to 70 mph. 

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Southeastern Massachusetts, including Cape Cod and the island of Martha’s Vineyard, were expected to get the highest snow totals. Boston’s mayor declared it “a snow emergency.” 

You could hardly blame her: The Saturday storm is coming 44 years to the day since a similar blizzard completely crippled the city — the 1978 storm shut down major highways for a week, trapped residents in their homes and killed dozens of people. 

In all, over 75 million Americans were under some level of winter weather alert as of Friday afternoon, with one forecaster calling it a “dangerous and life-threatening” storm for some. 

Particularly giddy about the coming storm were the ski resorts, where a “more-is-better” mentality ruled the day Friday.

“Make sure to do your snowfall rituals,” advised the daily report at Saddleback Mountain, near Rangeley. “Wear those pajamas inside out, flush ice down the drain or do the snow dance because we have the potential for a serious powder day.”

Locally, most people were awaiting the storm with the laissez faire composure that comes with a lifetime spent enduring Maine winters. 

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“I don’t need anything at the grocery store,” Tracy Clark Gosselin of Lisbon said. “I’ve got enough firewood to stay warm. I’ve got enough yarn for about five lifetimes stashed away, along with the knitting needles and crochet hooks to work it up. I’m all set.” 

Although for some, the blizzard coming on the heels of some smaller storms, not to mention weeks of intense cold, it was starting to feel like a bit of a grind. 

“I know I’m Maine born,” said Bonny Gonya, of Dixfield, “and lived here all my life. But the older I get, the more I hate winter. It’s inconvenient!” 

While the storm predictions varied in small ways from forecast to forecast, the overall advice doled out to Mainers did not.  

From public works officials to police and the forecasters themselves, it was simple advice: if at all possible, stay home on Saturday while the blizzard does its thing. 

“Plan on hunkering down over the weekend and start Monday refreshed,” Haggett wrote in his Friday report. “Nature has a way of telling us to slow down in this hectic and crazy world. Here’s a wonderful opportunity to do that. The most important thing you need to do is stay off the roads. Get to where you need to be by Friday night and stay there until Sunday afternoon.”


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