Powerful spring storm leaves surprisingly little damage in its wake

Traffic crosses U.S. Route 1 on the dike across the Middle River in Machias on Wednesday afternoon while the opposite side is scarcely visible because of blizzard conditions.
Tim Cox | BDN
Traffic crosses U.S. Route 1 on the dike across the Middle River in Machias on Wednesday afternoon while the opposite side is scarcely visible because of blizzard conditions. Buy Photo
Posted March 27, 2014, at 4:43 p.m.
One vehicle crests a hill while another disappears over it against a backdrop of blowing snow on U.S. 1  in Machias on Wednesday afternoon.
Tim Cox | BDN
One vehicle crests a hill while another disappears over it against a backdrop of blowing snow on U.S. 1 in Machias on Wednesday afternoon. Buy Photo
Traffic crosses U.S. 1 on the dike across the Middle River in Machias on Wednesday afternoon while the opposite side is scarcely visible because of blizzard conditions.
Tim Cox | BDN
Traffic crosses U.S. 1 on the dike across the Middle River in Machias on Wednesday afternoon while the opposite side is scarcely visible because of blizzard conditions. Buy Photo

The spring blizzard that pummeled Down East Maine with powerful winds did surprisingly little damage, according to the National Weather Service, although a fishing boat was a casualty.

The snowstorm raked primarily Washington and Hancock counties, but accumulations were much less than predicted.

“Snow totals were not the big news for this system,” Richard Norton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Caribou, said Thursday.

“Winds,” he added, were what made headlines for forecasters.

Wind gusts exceeding 50 mph were clocked at several points in Down East Maine, he reported. Those points included Brooksville (57 mph), Eastport (54 mph), Brooklin (52 mph), Sedgwick (52 mph) and the Bar Harbor airport (51 mph).

A weather data buoy about 20 miles south of Jonesport recorded a wind gust of 103 knots, which is the equivalent of about 120 miles per hour.

“It appeared suspicious to us,” said Norton, “but we can find no reason to discount it.”

Forecasters had some doubts about the data, he said, because surrounding observations “were not nearly that high.” There may have been “some kind of funneling going on to cause the gust to be elevated,” said Norton.

The closest weather stations nearby would be Eastport and the southern coast of Nova Scotia around Yarmouth, said Norton, where winds were clocked at 88 knots.

Norton ticked off a list of wind-related damage reports for the region that included: a tree down in Bar Harbor, a power outage in Lamoine, a few downed trees in coastal Washington County and a downed power line in Hampden.

The storm caused “surprisingly little damage” considering the powerful winds, he noted.

Isaac Beal, 72, of Beals, the island community next to Jonesport, was busy at low tide Thursday trying to repair his damaged fishing boat. “Kind of ragged,” said Beal, describing the 40-foot Ezzy Money that sank Wednesday.

The boat, rigged in the past to drag for scallops but now used for lobster fishing, had a hole in the hull about 2 by 2½ feet, he said. Beal was hoping it could be adequately repaired.

Beal notified the Coast Guard about 7:20 p.m. Wednesday that his boat had torn loose from its mooring. The winds sent it up against a rock wall next to a pier, where it sank in about 10 feet of water, according to the Coast Guard. No one was aboard at the time.

As bad as the wind was, snowfall was a relatively minor issue, although it was more significant farther east.

“We actually were expecting more snowfall than we got,” noted Norton.

Highest accumulations of snow were in Washington County — 10 inches in Whiting, 7 inches in Eastport, 6 inches in East Machias and 5 inches in Dennysville.

In Hancock County, 3 inches of snow was recorded at Prospect Harbor.

The snow was a fine, dry, powder. The powerful winds either piled it up in drifts or scoured it from the surface. In some places in Machias, for example, a drift of 12-15 inches deep was only a few feet removed from bare grass. On either side of U.S. 1 between Machias and Jonesboro, the wind-swept blueberry barrens were essentially devoid of snow.

 

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