Governor Mills, Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Urge Preparedness And Caution During Extreme Cold Temperatures 

AUGUSTA, MAINE - Maine is forecast to experience a level of extreme cold temperatures that only occurs about once every decade. The National Weather Service (NWS) Offices in Gray and Caribou report wind chills are expected to remain well below zero across the state for at least 48 hours beginning Friday morning. The potential exists for wind chills below -35F along the coast and below -45F in the foothills and mountains. High temperatures Saturday will remain below 0F in the mountains and in the single digits along the coast. River freeze-up jams are possible this weekend. 

"Temperatures this weekend will be extremely - and dangerously - cold across the state," said Governor Janet Mills. "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. MEMA will be working closely with county emergency agencies and local partners to support warming centers."

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention emphasizes preventing hypothermia and frostbite. Both can be avoided by wearing layered clothing, gloves, hats, and proper footwear to reduce skin exposure. This is an important precaution to take, even if only outside briefly. If you suspect you might have hypothermia or frostbite, rewarm yourself slowly and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

"We have yet to experience true Arctic air this entire season," said Sarah Jamison, Senior Service Hydrologist at NWS Gray. "This will be a dramatic shift from our mild winter so far, and frozen pipes could be an issue."

To prevent water pipes from freezing:

  • If there are water supply lines in the garage, keep the garage doors closed.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing, especially if your sink is on an exterior wall.
  • Leave your thermostat set to the same temperature during day and night - A cold snap is not the time to set back the thermostat at night to save a few bucks on your heating bill.
  • If you plan to be away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home and set to a temperature no lower than 55F.

For the long-term solutions, add insulation to attics, basements, and crawl spaces to maintain higher temperatures in those areas. To prevent drafts, be sure to seal cracks and openings around windows and doors. 

If your pipes do freeze, you can safely thaw them by:

  • Turning on the faucet because running water through the pipe, as cold as it is, will help melt any ice in the pipe.
  • Applying heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, or a portable space heater that's kept away from flammable materials. Do NOT use a blowtorch, a kerosene or propane heater, a charcoal stove, or any device with an open flame because high heat can damage the pipes or even start a fire.

Make sure to apply heat until full water pressure is restored. Check all other faucets in your home to see whether you have additional frozen pipes because if one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too. If you are unable to locate the frozen area or if you cannot thaw the pipe yourself, call a licensed plumber.

Additional tips to stay safe during extremely cold weather:

  • Avoid prolonged outdoor activities.
  • In the event you become stranded in your car, your emergency car kit should have blankets, a first aid kit, food and water, a cellphone charger, and a flashlight with extra batteries.
  • Prepare for power outages. If using a portable generator, always operate it outdoors and away from any open window. Ensure you have working smoke alarms and Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors.
  • Do safety checks on your elderly neighbors and those who are ill.
  • Individuals with medical or life support devices should have extra batteries for medical equipment and assistive devices. Notify your utility company, local fire or police department if you need assistance.
  • Do not leave your pet outside for extended periods of time. Provide shelter for livestock and be sure their water supply is not frozen.

For further tips or resources on heating during the winter months, visit the Governor's Energy Office's Winter Heating Guide.

Warming and Charging Centers operated by local municipalities could open in communities across Maine. Visit MEMA's website to find a location near you. You may also dial 2-1-1 or visit their website for a list of locations. 

Mainers are encouraged to stay tuned to alerts and warnings through media or by downloading the free FEMA app on their smart phone, which provides targeted preparedness information, alerts and warnings for specific areas. For more information on preparedness please visit MEMA on Facebook or Twitter


Vanessa Corson