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In 1786, the citizens of Falmouth formed a separate town in Falmouth Neck and named it Portland, after the isle off the coast of Dorset, England.

Portland's economy was greatly stressed by the Embargo Act of 1807 (prohibition of trade with the British), which ended in 1809, and the War of 1812, which ended in 1815.

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Annual precipitation averages 47.2 inches (1,200 mm) and is plentiful year-round, but with a slightly drier summer; snowfall averages 61.9 inches (157 cm).

In coastal Maine, winter-season mid-latitude storms can be intense from November to March, while warm-season thunderstorms are markedly less frequent than in the Midwestern, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeastern U. Direct strikes by hurricanes or tropical storms are rare, partially due to the normally cooler Atlantic waters off the Maine coast (which weaken tropical systems), but primarily because most tropical systems approaching or reaching 40 degrees North latitude recurve (Coriolis effect), carrying most such storms well south and east of the Portland area.

In 1676, the village was destroyed by the Abenaki during King Philip's War. During King William's War, a raiding party of French and Native allies attacked and largely destroyed it again in the Battle of Fort Loyal (1690).

Following the war, a section of Falmouth called The Neck developed as a commercial port and began to grow rapidly as a shipping center.

Clockwise: Portland waterfront, the Portland Observatory on Munjoy Hill, the corner of Middle and Exchange Street in the Old Port, Congress Street, the Civil War Memorial in Monument Square, and winter light sculptures in Congress Square Plaza.

The Greater Portland metropolitan area is home to over half a million people, more than one-third of Maine's total population.Portland became a 20th-century rail hub as five additional rail lines merged into Portland Terminal Company in 1911.Following nationalization of the Grand Trunk system in 1923, Canadian export traffic was diverted from Portland to Halifax, Nova Scotia, causing marked local economic decline.Portland borders South Portland, Westbrook and Falmouth. Portland has a humid continental climate (Köppen: Dfb), with rather cold, snowy winters, and warm, occasionally almost hot, summers.The monthly daily average temperature ranges from 22.3 °F (−5.4 °C) in January to 69.1 °F (20.6 °C) in July.In the 20th century, icebreakers later enabled ships to reach Montreal in winter, drastically reducing Portland's role as a winter port for Canada.