Temps turn the corner on Sunday

Are you longing for Spring? Well, for those who are, we are just days away from turning the corner, temperature-wise, as the average high temperature will begin to trend upward! This Sunday, January 29th, the average high at Caribou goes from 19 to 20, and the average low goes from 0 to 1. By the end of February the average high is 28, and by the end of March it is 40.

Also, for those who like to “think spring,” we are about four months away from flowering tree season.

Personally, although I, like most, love springtime, I also enjoy a good, robust winter, and as we all know, our seasonal average of more than 100 inches of snow brings with it a lot of winter tourism dollars, not to mention the local work it generates when it’s a winter like this one has been, where a lot of plowing and a lot of roof shoveling has been needed. Also, If you missed it in my last column, or hadn’t heard about it yet, the Fort Fairfield Bandstand collapsed under the weight of snow earlier this month.

As I look ahead, one of the things I’ve been thinking about is that the ground never had a chance to really freeze up this year before the snows came. It will be interesting, come spring melt season, to see how much water percolates down to the water table. But long before spring, comes February. Next Wednesday is the 1st. Here’s an amazing February weather fact, back in February of 1977, the total snow depth at Caribou reached 60 inches. That’s five feet on the level. (If anyone has any photos, I sure would like to see them. You can send them to my email address, listed at the end of this column.)

Although February can brew up some wicked winter storms like the powerful Ground Hog Day Gale of 1976, it’s also true that by mid-month, on a calm, sunny day, you can really begin to notice the increasing warmth of the sun when you turn your face toward it.

March has many “weather moods.” Back in the Big Winter of 2007-08,  March 20th saw The County slowed to a crawl by a wild snowstorm with severe blowing and drifting. March 20th happens to have been the first day of Spring, too! That storm vaulted Caribou past the old record of 181.1”, set back in 1954-55, to what was an eventual new seasonal record of 197.8”. Average snowfall for Caribou is 108.5 inches. So Caribou was about 7 1/2  feet above normal that winter. Incidentally, I had to get to work in that March storm, and those blowing snow zones between Caribou and Presque Isle on the Caribou Road had true can’t-see-past-your-hood whiteouts. To this day it’s the worst whiteout situation I’ve been in.

I’ll close my looking-ahead thoughts by saying that I hope we have a nice, orderly melt in April and early May, without any significant rainstorms. Not including ice jam flooding, significant flooding on our major rivers, like the Saint John, does not occur from snowmelt alone. It has to be concurrent with widespread significant rain, as happened in late April of 2008, which led to the severe flooding we saw in The Valley. Snowmelt alone, again not including potential ice jam flooding, typically produces no more than lowland flooding.

Ted Shapiro holds the Broadcast Seal of Approval from both the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association. An Alexandria, Va. native, he has been chief meteorologist at WAGM-TV since 2006. Email him at tshapiro@wagmtv.com.

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