EASTPORT, Maine — Ninety-nine inches in the past 20 days.
That’s how much snow has fallen on this island city, wedged between Cobscook and Passamaquoddy bays on the Canadian border, and it’s starting to weigh on the local population.
Nearly 2 feet fell on Eastport during the latest storm, which blew through between Saturday evening and early Monday morning, adding to the more than six feet of snow that has blanketed the city since Jan. 27.
Schools are on vacation this week, and Monday was a holiday, but Eastport’s public works employees did not have a break as they and some volunteers were working to clear the streets.
Rodney Merritt, the local chief of police, said city officials were preparing to ask the Maine National Guard for help in removing snow.
“They are preparing to make that request,” Merritt said Monday afternoon. “My opinion is that it would be a darn good idea.”
Eastport is not alone in eastern Washington County in coping with heavy amounts of snow. Sunday’s storm brought 28 inches to Robbinston, 24 to Lubec, and roughly a foot and a half to several other towns east of Machias.
The Eastport police chief said he thought city staff and others — including several volunteers who were clearing walkways and driveways — were keeping up with people who needed help getting out of their homes. But he said there is always the danger that someone could “slip through the cracks” and escape notice.
“Just take a look around,” Merritt said about the heaping piles of snow, some of which narrowed roads to one lane and, with Monday’s strong winds, were drifting back out into roadways, making them impassable.
“We were running out of room before this last major storm,” he said.
City Hall was closed on Monday because of the Presidents’ Day holiday, and attempts to reach City Manager Elaine Abbott were unsuccessful.
Brian Baron with the city’s public works department said he felt the city’s three-man public works crew and another half dozen or so others with plows and bulldozers were keeping most city streets clear. But he acknowledged keeping up has not been easy.
“It’s literally been all hands on deck,” Baron said. “Right now, it’s just me and one truck” hauling snow away and dumping it in a field behind the public safety building.
Victor Nouhan, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service in Caribou, said Monday that the amount of snow that has fallen in eastern Washington County in the past three weeks is “unparalleled” in the past 100 years or so. He said that, on the bright side, there are no more major storms that he could see hitting coastal Maine in the next 10 days.
“This is pretty unprecedented,” Nouhan said. “I’d be crying if that happened up here [in Aroostook County]. The areas that have seen the brunt [of recent storms that have dumped snow in New England] are eastern Washington County and eastern Massachusetts.”
Several Eastport residents who ventured out Monday maintained a good humor about the weather despite its effect on their lives.
Ashley Scott had no problems when she drove east on Deep Cove Road toward Shackford Head, but coming back her car got stuck in drifting snow that strong winds had blown into the road.
“It wasn’t like this on the way out,” she said, standing in the road and yelling over the wind.
Her husband, Chris Scott, drove out in a van to help her and stood by as they waited for a plow truck to come tow her out.
“This is insane!” he shouted as a thick white cloud blew across the road, causing the couple to shield their faces from the stinging snow.
Down on Shackford Street, John Smith said that, with each recent snowstorm, he has checked on neighbors and been checked on himself, out of concern that people have the help they need to shovel their driveways and doorways free of the plowed piles of snow. He waved off a man in a truck that stopped nearby to ask if he was OK as he shoveled the walkway outside his home-slash- bookstore.
“We’re all helping each other out,” Smith said.
Smith said he and his wife moved to Eastport five years ago from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, but he had never experienced such a quick succession of punishing storms. He said he hopes the National Guard can show up with bucket loaders and trucks to help widen the streets back out and remove the snow.
“It hasn’t stopped,” Smith said, “and the wind has been horrendous. It’s too much. We gotta get it out of here.”