ORONO, Maine-  Enrollment is now open for farmers to sign up for a federally subsidized, pilot drought insurance program designed to protect hay and other forage crops.

BRUNSWICK, Maine-  A number of visitors,  and one Downeaster passenger train, were able to escape Saturday's downpour by ducking into a new rail facility set to go online next month. 

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - A species of moth infamous for an itchy, painful rash caused by the hairs of its larvae increased in population and territory in Maine this year and will likely spread even more in 2017.

The browntail moth is an invasive insect that came to New England from Europe just before the turn of the 19th century. The moths begin their lives as caterpillars with poisonous hairs that can cause skin irritation resembling a poison ivy rash.


Parts of Maine are poised to get their first taste of snow this season.

The National Weather Service says the plummeting temperature will cause rain to turn to snow late Saturday and into Sunday in northwestern Maine. Meteorologist Chris Kimball says higher terrain could see 3 to 4 inches, while lower elevations will see only an inch or so of snow.

The rest of the state will see more rain after downpours Friday night into Saturday _ between 1 and 2.5 inches before it ends.

The rain is needed. The federal government says more than 1.2 million residents -nearly all of Maine's population -is dealing with moderate to extreme drought conditions.

State government is auctioning off over 150 rifles, shot guns and hand guns this weekend. The auction is expected to generate thousands of dollars for the state.

“We actually contract out the auction in this case where the firearms are actually up for auction to the highest bidder and it is done through a federally licensed firearms dealer,” says David Heidrich, spokesman for the Department of Finance and Administration that oversees the sale of surplus state property.

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine is getting some much-needed rain today and tomorrow - but it's not going to make a big difference in the drought.

Almost 70 percent of Maine is now in a drought that's affecting about 1.2 million people. Of those, many who use shallow dug wells for their water supply are finding those wells drying up.  That's especially true in southern Maine where the drought is worst.

PORTLAND, Maine - A survey done for Colby College and the Boston Globe shows a growing, bi-partisan desire for compromise on political issues.  

Dan Shea, a professor of government at Colby's Goldfarb Center, says the most recent poll results show a shift in attitudes over the last six years:

"Spring of 2010, very few strong conservatives and Republicans wanted to compromise," Shea says. "I think that they thought they were going to win the mid-term election - which, of course, they did.  And they sort of stuck with that for a while.  Now that's changed."

Maine Gov. Paul LePage speaks during a conference.
Mal Leary / MPBN/file

Editor’s note: Off Mic is a blog about things you might have missed in Maine politics. It’s a place for those news tidbits that aren’t quite a story, or that were part of story but were hacked out by a thoughtless editor.

Leftovers from the notebook while assailing the rigged hiring process that landed me this job ...

BANGOR, Maine - A Maine group that promotes bicycling says it's noticed an uptick in the number of fatal crashes between automobiles and bicyclists and pedestrians in recent weeks. Three people have been killed in separate incidents since Oct. 10, bringing the total of fatalities so far this year to 11 - on pace with last year. The Maine Bicycle Coalition's James Tasse says dangerous road design, distracted driving, and bikers and walkers not paying attention all play a role. "There are a lot of factors at play," he says.

BANGOR, Maine - As autumn produce starts hitting the shelves, Maine's cranberry harvest appears to be strong, despite fears over drought conditions.

"Might even prove to be a little bit above average size yield this year," says Charles Armstrong, a cranberry expert with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine's capital city is spending $300,000 to help restore and reopen a historic theater that closed decades ago.

The Kennebec Journal reports that Augusta officials see opening the Colonial Theater as a key to revitalizing the downtown area. The theater closed in 1969.

The nonprofit group working on the restoration won't get the public money until the project is substantially completed. The project is estimated to cost up to $6 million.

BELFAST, Maine - Students in Maine are planning to send a small unmanned sailboat equipped with a GPS to Europe.

Members of the University of Maine's Marine Sciences Club are partnering with local schoolchildren on the project. The sailboat will be a little less than five feet long and it'll be entered into the 2016 Atlantic Miniboat Regatta.

The university says the sailboat will be tracked on its European voyage by way of the ocean currents.

BRUNSWICK, Maine - The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority will unveil a new layover facility in Brunswick this weekend that will service Amtrak Downeaster trains overnight.

The authority is planning to hold a public open house at the layover shed on Saturday. A spokeswoman says this may be the public's last opportunity to see the building's interior.

OXFORD, Maine - The Oxford Police Department is experiencing a nearly 80 percent increase in calls from the Oxford Casino so far this year.

Police Chief Jon Tibbetts tells the Sun Journal that the department has answered 198 calls between January and October. Police were called for intoxication, drugs and trespassing, along with child abuse and removal of unwanted people.

PORTLAND, Maine - Mainers are going to get the first big dose of rain in a long time.

The National Weather Service says a tropical disturbance and a low pressure system will combine to create moderate to heavy rain across the entire state.

Meteorologist Tom Hawley says the heaviest rain will run from Friday night into Saturday morning. He says the entire state should see 1 to 2.5 inches of rain before it ends early Sunday.