AUGUSTA — Two-thirds of the way through Maine’s annual snowpack survey, the conclusion is: There’s still a lot of snow out there, according to the Maine Geological Survey, under the Maine Department of Conservation.
Last year by this time, with the unusually warm spring, the 12-week-long, cooperative survey was complete after only eight weeks and Maine’s state park campgrounds were starting to open for a very early season.
For this year, however, “we’re way above normal in how long it’s holding on” due to colder temperatures, Robert Johnston, Maine Geological Survey senior geologist, said. “The state hasn’t warmed up yet.”
The Maine Cooperative Snow Survey is conducted annually to help determine potential spring flooding with the development of flood forecasting models. The data is shared with the Maine Emergency Management Agency and county emergency officials.
In January, Maine Cooperative Snow Survey team members, including local and government entities and private businesses, went to 75 locations around the state to take the first snowpack measurement. In March, the survey team members began weekly inventories of the snowpack and now are in their eighth week. They are expected to complete the full 12 weeks this year, Johnston said.
This week, 69 snowpack sites around Maine were surveyed, and overall, “it’s still good for the skiers,” Johnston reported.
Statewide, “it looks like we have a lot of snow in the St. John, Allagash and Penobscot river basins,” the senior geologist noted. Northwestern Maine still has snowpack 24-30 inches deep, with 8 to 12 inches of water content.
The deepest snow was found in Carrabassett Valley with 33.4 inches; the most water content was found in Greenville with 12.6 inches. The smallest amount of snow was found in West Kennebunk, with 2.8 inches of snow and 1 inch of water. One site in Falmouth had no snow, Johnston reported.
The senior geologist also pointed out that rivers appear to be open and not very high, and there have been some “melting events.” At Screw Auger Falls in Grafton Notch State Park, “you can see that the water has been upwards of 3 feet higher,” Johnston said.
Snow has begun to crystallize, indicating melting and refreezing, Johnston said. He also noted that last week during the surveying, he didn’t have to wear his snowshoes and was able to walk on top of the snow. “This week I had to put on my snowshoes at every site,” he said.
Up to now, there has been cool weather and cool nights, a pattern that is beginning to change, the geologist said. “If you did have warm temps and a rain, the snow could melt in a hurry,” Johnston said.
In a related observation, Scott Ramsay, director of the Off Road Vehicle (ORV) Division, under the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, also under the Maine Department of Conservation, observed that “the snow is going very fast but still is ridable” by snowmobilers.
Ramsay said there was “at least one more weekend left” of good snowmobiling, mostly off trail in the following areas: north of Jackman; Moosehead Lake/Pittston Farm; Kokadjo; Chesuncook Village to the Allagash Wilderness Waterway; Jo Mary country; and Millinocket.
The ORV director recommended that snowmobilers call ahead to local clubs and businesses, as the remote lodges are starting to close down for mud season and fuel for snowmobiles may be an issue.
“Ice is becoming dangerous near any rivers, streams, and impoundments with currents, so hiring a local guide from a lodge or rental facility would be wise,” Ramsay added.
For more information about the Maine Cooperative Snowpack Survey, go to: http://www.maine.gov/rfac/rfac_snow.shtml
For more information about the Off Road Vehicle Division Snowmobile Program, go to: http://www.maine.gov/doc/parks/programs/snowmobile/index.html