Arthur Murray keeps warm underneath a sleeping bag Thursday in downtown Lewiston. “I will get through it, I think,” Murray said about being outside during the expected frigid temperatures arriving in Maine on Friday. Several warming shelters have opened up in both Auburn and Lewiston this week for those looking to get out of the cold. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Maine is facing once-in-a-generation, dangerously low temperatures Friday night into Saturday morning, a blast of Arctic air so harsh that the National Weather Service on Thursday advised Mainers to remain indoors Friday and Saturday.

Portland’s actual temperature Friday night could drop to as low as 20 degrees below zero, meteorologist Sarah Thunberg said. Add in strong wind gusts, and the wind chill will make it feel like 43 below. Such extreme temperatures can cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes.

If the forecast proves accurate, Portland will see its lowest temperatures since Jan. 19, 1971, when the wind chill was 43 below zero. On Dec. 14, 2016, the wind chill in Portland dropped to 31 below, Thunberg said.

Most of the state will experience brutal cold from Friday through Saturday. The weather service issued a wind chill warning Thursday that will be in effect from 10 a.m. Friday through 1 p.m. Saturday.

Friday night will be the coldest night in southern Maine in at least 5 years. With the wind, the well below zero temperatures will feel brutal. WGME graphic

“The wind chills have the potential to be once in a generation cold late Friday into early Saturday,” the National Weather Service said in its warning. “Avoid outside activities if possible. When outside, make sure you wear appropriate clothing, a hat and gloves. Persons are urged to stay indoors until conditions improve.”

Thunberg recommends that anyone driving have a full tank of gas, as well as an extra blanket and a fully charged cell phone, in case the vehicle breaks down.


“These are dangerous conditions,” she said.

Gov. Janet Mills urged Mainers to be cautious this weekend.

“Temperatures this weekend will be extremely – and dangerously – cold across the state,” Mills said in a statement. “Please take extra precautions, be careful if you go outside, and be sure to check on your family, friends and neighbors to make sure they are okay.”

A plume of frigid air greets passersby on Congress Street on January 11, when Portland’s daytime high hit about 14 degrees. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The Maine Emergency Management Agency has provided a list of warming and charging centers in various cities and towns that will be open during the deep freeze. You can visit MEMA’s website to find a location near you.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in an interview with the Press Herald cautioned that the extreme cold poses a serious risk.

“Stay inside if you can,” Shah said. He said if you must go out, cover exposed skin and limit the amount of time spent outside. Frostbite can set in within minutes, not hours, Shah said.

Hypothermia poses another risk, especially for people who are not dressed properly, according to Shah. Hypothermia can set in within 20 to 30 minutes.

“Hypothermia can set in quickly. It doesn’t take getting lost in the woods and wandering around for hours,” Shah said. “The insidious thing about hypothermia is it causes confusion and people may not even know that they are suffering from hypothermia.”

Sunday promises to bring warmer temperatures to the Portland area with the high expected to be around 37 degrees.

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