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Maine Prepares for Blizzard Conditions

State officials, businesses and communities across Maine are busy making preparations for the impending winter storm that's bringing snow, high winds and blizzard conditions to much of the northeast.

  "Be prepared for a challenging 36 hours and we're not kidding." That was the message from officials across the state Monday as Mainers braced themselves for the storm' arrival.

"Take this storm seriously, this is a serious storm," said Portland fire chief Jerome LaMoria, who's also the city's emergency management director.

With up to 2 feet of snow and whiteout conditions expected in Maine's biggest city on Tuesday, LaMoria joined other municipal officials at a news conference Monday afternoon, to urge residents to stay indoors.

"Massive amounts of snow and the winds will make roads impassable. If you do not need to be out please stay off the roads," said Portland public works director Mike Bobinsky.

He said his road crews are anticipating conditions not seen since the storm of February 2013.

"There is a chance due the conditions of the blizzard and the poor visibility, our snow plow operators will have to stop operations because of visibility, because they can't see."

Several Maine cities and towns have put in place parking bans. Bobinsky says Portland's citywide ban begins Monday at 10 p.m. and runs through 6 a.m. Wednesday.

During the height of the blizzard - from Tuesday morning into early afternoon - he predicts it will be hard for city workers to keep any but the major roads clear.

"Residents should expect that we're only able to keep up with clearing major arterials during the initial phase of the storm," said Bobinsky.

Similar warnings were issued across the state Monday.

"The National Weather Service has issued some very strong warnings about staying off the roads," said Lynette Miller with the Maine Emergency Management Agency. We know Maine knows how to deal with snow but this is going to be a very challenging situation for all road crews to keep the roads clear."

If your journey is absolutely essential, Miller advises motorists to be prepared, and keep blankets, a fully charged cell phone and emergency provisions in the car.

And as Mainers flock to the supermarket Monday afternoon to stock up on essential supplies, officials are also urging people to keep and eye out for potentially vulnerable neighbors.

Much of the state's transportation grid is also being shut down as the blizzard approaches.

There'll be no flights in or out of the Portland International Jetport or Bangor International Airport on Tuesday, while Amtrak has canceled its service between Boston and Brunswick, Maine.

Utility companies are preparing their employees to cope with power outages.

Susan Faloon is a spokeswoman for Emera Maine - formerly Bangor Hydro - which supplies more than 150,000 customers in much of northern and Downeast Maine.

She says the company has been re-deploying much of its workforce in preparation for the storm.

"In some cases we're moving them from one area of our service territory to another," Faloon said. "We're getting a bunch of folks into Machias, into Hancock County, so that they can be there tonight and not have to travel during poor road conditions and be ready to roll as soon as any power outages hit".

Depending on the extent of the outages, emergency management officials will decide when and where to open emergency heating shelters.

MEMA's Miller said that will only be decided once the worst of the storm has passed.

"The difficulty with standing up shelters during a severe storm like this is it is dangerous to get folks out to set those shelters up and dangerous for folks to try to get to them."

Miller says the state will work with the Red Cross and community partners to set up shelters as soon as possible after the blizzard.