EASTPORT, Maine — Seventy-six inches and counting.
That’s how much snow has fallen in Eastport since Jan. 25, which is a new 10-day record for documented snowfall anywhere in Maine. The previous record of 71 inches for a 10-day period was set more than 50 years ago at Ripogenus Dam, just west of Baxter State Park in Piscataquis County, from late December 1962 to early January 1963, according to the National Weather Service.
The need to relocate all that snow has kept people busy, according to Eastport officials, but there might be more snow on the way.
Weather forecasters predict that parts of Washington County, including Eastport, are expected to get about another half-foot of snow by Thursday evening.
Christina Vizcarrondo, a Water Street resident, has been going around the neighborhood with her 10 year-old son, Antonio, to help shovel at some of the older residents’ homes. She said Wednesday that they have helped clear snow at maybe a dozen houses and have encountered many other residents doing the same.
“We do pull together when there’s a crisis, and this is a crisis,” Vizcarrondo said, adding that some houses in the neighborhood still haven’t had their driveways plowed out. “Our neighborhood is really strong. We all look out for each other.”
Victor Nouhan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Caribou, said Wednesday the amount of data and information available to the federal agency is limited, so he cannot say whether Eastport’s 76 inches is the most snowfall ever in Maine in a week and a half. He said the Fryeburg area got an exceptionally heavy dumping of snow in February 1969, which may rival the amount that officially has been measured in Eastport.
The prior top snow measurement in Eastport over a 10-day period is from a year ago, when 37.5 inches fell, which is less than half of Eastport’s new record.
Eastport is not alone in among municipalities in Maine getting unprecedented amounts of snow in about the past week. Portland had a record of 22.5 inches snowfall during the Jan. 27 blizzard, which helped make the monthly total of 40.5 inches the second highest in the past five years, behind only the 49.6 inches Portland got in February 2013.
Several records for snowfall in Bangor — over seven days, over eight days and over 10 days —- that date back 87 years have been broken by the 40-plus inches of snow Bangor has gotten since Jan. 24.
“Basically, any way you put it, it was a very unusual snowy stretch for Bangor, which was even a lot less snowy than Eastport during this stretch,” National Weather Service officials said in a written statement.
Other places in Maine have gotten about 5 feet of snow in the past week and a half, federal forecasters said. Machias and Robbinston each had their 10-day records of about 3 feet “shattered” by 20 inches or more, they said. Hancock and Lamoine each have been buried by about 60 inches of snow since Jan. 24.
There are a couple of factors that could explain the repeated snowstorms. One, Nouhan said, is that water far offshore in the Atlantic is warmer than average, which could be helping to steer storms over the Gulf of Maine that otherwise would veer offshore further south. Another is a “deeper” or more southerly wind trough in the upper atmosphere, which enables weather systems to pick up more moisture over the Gulf of Mexico and the southeast coast before they turn northeast toward Cape Cod.
Nouhan said the intensity of the snowfall in coastal and Down East Maine is not necessarily a new thing, because weather patterns can take decades or even 100 years to complete a cycle.
“This is not unprecedented,” he said.
Elaine Abbott, Eastport’s city manager, said Wednesday that the city’s three-man Public Works Department has been getting a lot of help in the past 10 days from other local entities and private individuals in clearing snow from the city’s 26 miles of roads. State law bars dumping the snow in the water, despite the fact that Eastport is surrounded by the waters of Cobscook and Passamaquoddy bays, so it is being loaded in trucks and taken to a field behind the local fire station, she said.
She said the help is much appreciated, as the city plows and trucks have been experiencing mechanical issues that have prevented all of them from being in service at the same time during the recent spate of snowstorms.
“I don’t think we’ll run out of room,” Abbott said, adding that some landowners have offered the use of their fields if the one behind the fire station fills up.
“I can’t wait,” she joked about possibly getting 9 more inches by Thursday night.
Chris Gardner, director of the Eastport Port Authority, said Wednesday that the marine cargo terminal is lucky that its clients come and go by sea. He said employees with the Port Authority and Federal Marine Terminals, which operates the facility at Estes Head, have been assisting the city with moving snow off the streets.
“That’s about the only place in Eastport where the snow has not built up, is on the water,” he quipped.
Vizcarrondo said she has lived full-time in Eastport all her adult life and has never experienced a winter such as this one.
“That would scare me if I couldn’t get out of my house,” she said. “I’ve never seen this much snow.”