From the morning of Feb. 3 until the evening of Feb. 4, Maine experienced severe cold weather with temperatures reaching into the negative double digits. Coupled with the wind chill, what was forecasted felt significantly colder, getting to extremes such as -50 degrees. Compared to the relatively mild winter Maine had been experiencing, the cold came as a surprise to Mainers and home infrastructures.
Warnings were issued across the state encouraging people to limit time outdoors and to be prepared if braving the cold was unavoidable. Officials from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Maine Emergency Management Agency, and Governor Mills all issued statements urging caution.
“Temperatures this weekend will be extremely — and dangerously — cold across the state,” stated 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.”
Clay Holtzman, a representative for MaineHealth, said, “The injuries included exposure and frostbite, two of which required hospitalization.” Hospitals received cold-related injuries throughout the weekend.
In many homes and businesses, the cold caused damage to heating systems and water pipes. The Rockport Public Library faced a burst sprinkler pipe, causing minor flooding. Although now open, the library and many other institutions worry about long-term damages. The library’s Facebook page issued a statement claiming, “We may need to close the building (or parts of the building) once in a while to pick away at the remaining repairs.”
Pine State Services offers services in plumbing, heating, cooling, and electrical. They also provide 24/7 emergency help. During the freeze, they received over 120 calls for emergency help. Jim Marcisso, a manager at Pine State Services, said, “Most systems aren’t designed for temperatures below -5, so when we got temperatures like last night, especially with the wind, it puts the systems in a deficit.”
Frozen and burst water pipes stopped running water, and many people were unable to heat their homes adequately. Heat pumps are the prevalent heating system in modern homes, but they start to shut off at -5 degrees in order to prevent damage.
The subzero temperatures reached deep underground and led to four water main breaks in central Maine. A water main is an underground pipe that delivers water to houses and businesses from municipal water utilities.
In Waterville, a water main break occurred on Main Street. This break forced the closure of one lane of traffic while workers quickly repaired it due to its presence in a high-traffic area. Luckily, this pipe only carried water for fire services, so nearby businesses and homes were not significantly affected.
In Winslow, one break caused more trouble with a six-hour-long repair. The pipe had to be completely cut off and then capped. Because of this break, water ran off into nearby woods and a ravine.
The cold also caused issues with power and service outages. Central Maine Power Company reported that 1,255 of their customers were without service by 7 pm on Feb. 4.
The cold’s brief but serious visit has since faded. Temperatures have climbed back to the high 30s and low 40s, and Maine has seemingly recovered from the chilling weather.
~ Vivian Nguyen `25
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