Snowfall totals stabilizing normally around Maine as winter winds down

Posted March 12, 2011, at 5:43 p.m.

HOULTON, Maine – At a gas station in Houlton on Saturday afternoon, Joe Farignini was admittedly “kind of bummed.”

The 22-year-old Boston resident had been planning a college spring break trip to Maine for three days of snowmobiling for more than a year. On Thursday, Farignini and three other New Hampshire and Massachusetts residents started out on their trek to a friend’s hunting camp in southern Aroostook County.

“Before we left Boston, we heard that Aroostook County had tons of snow and the sledding was awesome,” he said as he waited for his friends to gas up their snowsleds. “But the minute we got to Maine, it started raining, and it feels like it hasn’t stopped.”

Farignini said most of the trails he had sledded on were still in good condition, but the rain had made several routes sloppy and conditions were not ideal.

“It is just wet,” he said. “My suit is white and my goggles keep getting fogged up.”

It has been a weird winter for much of the state, with snow piling up in parts of Maine that doesn’t customarily see as much while other areas more prone to high snowbanks could still see patches of grass in December. But recently the scenario has pretty much normalized, Mark Bloomer, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Caribou, said Saturday. For most of the season, Aroostook County was below average in the amount of snowfall it usually received. By Feb. 1, Caribou had received 34.6 inches of snow since Dec. 1, more than 19 inches below the average amount of 53.8 inches for that time of year.

Bloomer said The County is now “almost normal” in terms of snowfall.

“Right now, Aroostook County has received 91 inches of snow, and the normal amount is 93.5 inches,” he said Saturday. “So we are almost there. We only need a little bit more to catch up.”

When The County was wishing for snow, Bangor was wishing it would go away. By February, the Bangor area had seen 68.6 inches of snow since Dec. 1, about 34 inches more than normal.

Bloomer said Saturday that 92 inches of snow had fallen on Bangor by March 12. The normal is 56 inches.

“We don’t track figures for Down East Maine, but they have had above-average amounts of snowfall, just based on the storms that have hit that area this season,” he said. “Bangor and Down East got a lot of snow early in the winter, and The County really didn’t get hit harder until late January.”

Rain pummeled The County on Friday and sporadically on Saturday. The rain, combined with mild temperatures, allowed residents to see patches of green for the first time in months.

Rain showers are expected to continue on and off through Sunday night.

In Aroostook, the St. John Valley town of Lille had picked up 1.2 inches of rain, while Island Falls had received 1.16 inches.

In Hancock County, Waltham had 1.03 inches by 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Dixmont, in Penobscot County, had 1.32 inches, while 1.08 inches had been recorded at Bangor International Airport.

In Piscataquis County, Blanchard had 1.22 inches. In Washington County, Eastport had 1.95 inches, and 1.95 inches was recorded in East Machias.

Areas of central and eastern Maine were dry and safe Saturday after a wet week. No flooding was reported across the state, the National Weather Service indicated at midafternoon Saturday, and no potential dangers of flooding were listed.

“So far I haven’t heard of any problems except the mud in my yard — there is plenty of that. It’s looking pretty good,” said Knox County Emergency Management Agency director Ray Sisk on Saturday.

Emergency dispatchers in Aroostook, Hancock, Kennebec, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset, Waldo and Washington counties also said they’d received no reports of flooding Saturday.

With the combination of heavy rain and snow melt, Bangor police had prepared for flooding near the Kenduskeag Plaza downtown Thursday, but worries were quelled after high tide came and went without any problems.

Back in Houlton, Farignini was hoping the weather would clear out as he and his party trekked north to the St. John Valley.

Even though the weather was less than stellar, he said, he still was enjoying his time in Maine.

“I’ve been here before, but only in the summer,” he said. “No matter what the season though, this is really a nice place.”

Bangor Daily News reporter Heather Steeves contributed to this report.

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