AUGUSTA — The Maine Emergency Management Agency encourages residents to be prepared for a lengthy stretch of cold weather. The National Weather Service in Gray forecasts an arctic air mass moving into the state tonight through Saturday with dangerous wind chill temperatures tonight through tomorrow morning. Friday night through Saturday morning will be very cold with temperatures across low lying interior areas dropping down into the -20s and sub-zero temperatures elsewhere. Gradual warming is expected Sunday, but temperatures will remain cold through the middle of next week, with lows ranging from the single digits near the coast to sub-zero across the interior. Check your heating fuel resources, prepare your vehicle for cold morning starts, dress appropriately for the conditions, and protect vulnerable water lines.

“In preparation for extremely cold temperatures, the Governor’s Energy Office has prepared a Winter Heating Guide (maine.gov/energy/winter-heating-resources) to help Maine people stay warm this winter and know where to find assistance if needed,” said Dan Burgess, director of the Governor’s Energy Office. “This includes steps to receive emergency fuel, if necessary, sign up for automatic fuel delivery, or find support for energy bills or to help insulate your homes. If you need to order heating fuel, we advise contacting your supplier before your tank falls below one-third full, to give busy fuel delivery companies time to schedule your delivery.”

Extended periods of low temperatures can result in frozen water pipes.

To prevent water pipes from freezing, try these methods:

Keep garage doors closed, especially if there are water supply lines in the garage.

Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing, especially if your sink is on an exterior wall. (If you have small children, be sure to remove any harmful cleaners and household chemicals from the open cabinets.)

Let the cold water drip from a faucet of the exposed pipes. Running water through the pipes — even at a trickle — helps prevent pipes from freezing.

Keep the 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 55 degrees F.

For the long term:

Add insulation to attics, basements, and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in those areas. To prevent drafts, seal cracks and openings around windows, doors, and at sill plates where the house rests on its foundation.

If your pipes do freeze, you can safely thaw them with the following actions:

Turn on the faucet. Running water through the pipe, as cold as it is, will help melt ice in the pipe.

Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, or a portable space heater (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 as high heat can damage the pipes or even start a fire.

Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. Check all other faucets in your home to see whether you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

Call a licensed plumber if you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe.

For additional preparedness and safety information please log on to MainePrepares.com (maine.gov/mema/maine-prepares) or visit MEMA on Facebook or Twitter.