BELFAST, Maine — Just two weeks before the spring equinox, temperatures around the state dipped as low as 19 degrees below zero Wednesday — and the long, cold winter is starting to take a toll, psychological and otherwise, on weather-weary Mainers.
“We’re all done with winter,” Sandi Roman of Belfast, who works with children at the Waldo County YMCA, said Wednesday. “Kids are bouncing off the walls. They’re getting a little cabin fever.”
From child care workers to builders, from municipal road workers to home gardeners, lots of Mainers are feeling extra ready for spring to come. They’ll have to wait a little longer, according to Paul Fitzsimmons, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Caribou, who said that temperatures next week will remain lower than average, though not as cold as this week. He said that an arctic air mass that has settled over Maine has caused record-breaking lows in places like Aroostook County.
“It’s definitely cold,” he said.
The March cold snap has come after weeks of a tough winter that included the Christmas ice storm and long stretches of below-average temperatures, which have caused runs on bags of wood pellets and extra trips for trucks delivering No. 2 heating fuel.
“It’s been quite a winter,” said John Davee, the president of Maine Coast Construction in Camden, adding that bad weather has caused outside jobs to run a month or more behind schedule. “Some of the jobs we have, the wind affects it, the snow affects it, the cold affects it. In years past, we really haven’t had a problem. This is just one of those years.”
In Bangor, the 600 children enrolled in the Penquis Head Start and other programs are not allowed to go outside if it feels like 10 degrees or colder, according to Jean Bridges, the director of the child development department there.
“They surely do like to get outside, and we try to get them out as much as possible,” she said. “Each one of our centers has extra clothing, ski pants, boots and mittens. If a child comes unprepared, we have a lot of backup clothing, to make sure kids are cozy and warm.”
At the Davis Road Center near Capehart, the children also have been encouraging spring by painting brightly-colored flowers on the windows.
“It reminds us of what’s coming,” Bridges said. “It’s been a long winter.”
In Belfast, City Manager Joe Slocum estimated this week that overtime payments to plow truck drivers already have exceeded the current fiscal year’s $56,000 overtime budget by about $20,000. The city also is running low on road salt, so municipal workers have been putting sand on slippery roads at night, then sweeping it up during the day time.
“It is what it is,” he said.
One place that feels, and smells, like summer is the greenhouse at the Troy Howard Middle School Garden Project, where daytime temperatures hover around 92 degrees, and the student gardeners have been busy starting onion, pepper and petunia seedlings this week, according to agricultural coordinator Jon Thurston.
“They come out and weed, just to be in here,” he said. “The kids say, ‘Mr. Thurston, it’s like Florida in here!’ This is the way to beat the blues.”