January 2

Central Maine seized by deep freeze

Pet owners asked to take precautions as National Weather Service predicts up to 8 inches of snow, wind chills of minus 35 by Friday morning.

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

As central Maine enters a deep freeze that is expected to include wind chills nearing 35 degrees below zero, an animal shelter is asking pet owners to take special precautions to protect their pets from the worst of the weather.

click image to enlarge

COLD FEET: Pam Nichols, kennel manager at the Humane Society Waterville Area, with a pit bull that was recently found with frostbitten feet and ears. Shelter workers named the dog Chance because it has received a second chance in life.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

click image to enlarge

WARM PAWS: Wanda, a three-year-old mutt, wears booties to help protect her paws while on a walk with Katrina Lavoie at the Humane Society Waterville Area on Thursday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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Poor visibility, dangerously low temperatures and up to 8 inches of snow are predicted to hit central Maine by Friday morning, according to weather forecasts.

Heavy bands of snow and strong winds Thursday threatened to create near-blizzard conditions in Maine to be followed by the coldest weather in three years — conditions severe enough that even skiers were reconsidering going outside.

With the snow and temperatures expected to plummet to 30 to 35 below zero Friday night in the mountains for the coldest weather since 2011, Gov. Paul LePage sent workers home early in nine counties.

Electric utilities that had to deal with 160,000 power failures during the ice storm last week said crews were ready to return to work to restore power if winds gusting to 35 mph caused more problems.

Another chance

The importance of protecting pets from the chill took on extra meaning for workers at the Waterville Humane Society on Webb Road when the shelter took in a half-starved pit bull suffering from frostbite Saturday night, according to shelter director Kathleen Ross.

A local couple found the white dog with fawn-colored spots wandering the rural roads of Rome about 10 p.m., and they worked with an off-duty police officer to coax the dog into their car using sausages as bait, said Ross, who is also Rome’s animal control officer.

“If the dog hadn’t been picked up on Saturday night, it would not have survived Sunday night,” Ross said.

Pam Nichols, the shelter’s kennel manager and a former veterinary technician, said the signs of frostbite were widespread on the rear legs, foot pads and ears of the dog, which at first refused to walk.

“It could have been from soreness,” Nichols said. “Or it could have been from being scared.”

Nichols said the flea-ridden dog, which they named Chance because it has received a second chance in life, was extremely thin and seemed to have received no socialization.

Chance’s weight is a sign of long-term food deprivation, she said, but his frostbite could have happened very quickly, especially if he got wet while crossing a small stream.

“Usually the skin starts scaling off and turning black,” Nichols said. “They’ll start losing hair.”

Cold into weekend

For homes across the region, frostbite will be a real danger for many humans and pets on Friday.

Some pet owners reported that the cold weather was forcing them to take shorter walks with their dogs.

The skin of a person or animal is susceptible to frostbite at temperatures slightly below freezing. At about 28 degrees, the tissue will begin to freeze, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The colder it is outside, the more quickly frostbite can happen, and on Friday the temperature will get “darn cold,” according to Margaret Curtis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray.

The weather service predicted 4 to 8 inches of new snow accumulation by Friday morning in the Augusta and Waterville areas.

The extreme cold temperatures and wind gusts are expected to contribute to poor visibility, as fallen snow is stirred up into the air to mix with the snow that is still falling.

According to an advisory, north winds with gusts of up to 25 mph will produce a wind chill of as low as 27 degrees below zero Thursday night.

Somerset County will see less snow, at an estimated 3 to 5 inches, but will have even colder temperatures, with a wind chill of as low as 35 below.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

COLD FEET: Paul Marquis walks his three-year old shih tzu, Isabella Rose, along Gilman Street in Waterville on Thursday. Marquis said the cold weather has cut his walk of three miles a day to one. “Her feet can’t handle the cold on days like this,” he said.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

click image to enlarge

WARM PAWS: Wanda, a three-year-old mutt, wears booties to help protect her paws while on a walk with Katrina Lavoie at the Humane Society Waterville Area on Thursday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans


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