Opinion

Shocking stunning weather

Well, it seems as if M. Nature read my last column, which told of the exceptional, late-in-season sub-zero day of March 8, 2007 and said, “Tell you what, I’ll do you one better.”

On Saturday, the 11th of March, the Saturday before last, Caribou’s high temperature failed to exceed zero, with an official high of 1 below. However, temperatures are measured midnight to midnight, and that 1 below was just after midnight, as Friday became Saturday. The actual daylight high temperature on Saturday the 11th never exceeded 3 below. And all throughout daylight, windchills remained 20 to 30 below, with upper 20s below occurring with frequency. Truly a remarkably cold day for so late in the season, and now the new record holder for latest-in-calendar-year sub-zero maximum temperature at Caribou.

Incidentally, there have only been two other March days with sub-zero maxes at Caribou. On March 5th, 1948 the high was 1 below, and on March 8th, 2007, the high was 3 below. I don’t remember that day being quite as punishing though, as the 11th was.

And it looks like we’ll have our third Arctic Intrusion of March, as we have another shot of very cold air which should be well entrenched as you are reading these words, (assuming you are reading them on Wednesday, the day the paper hits the street). And to think, Spring arrived on Monday.

So with all of this late-season cold, check this out. Just two months from today’s date, March 22nd, Caribou’s record high was tied. That’s right, on May 22nd, 1977 Caribou’s temperature soared to 96 degrees. 96 had only been reached once before, on June 29th, 1944. Records at Caribou go back to 1939.

On another note entirely, tomorrow, March 23rd, is the fifth anniversary of the destructive Perth-Andover ice jam flood.

A look at high temperatures in the days preceding the flood, shows astonishing warmth for mid-March. Here is a list of the temperatures from the 18th through 22nd of March, five years ago, back in 2012.

March 18th: 64 degrees

March 19th: 53 degrees

March 20th: 73 degrees

March 21st: 75 degrees

The average high during that 4-day stretch is only in the mid 30s. These unusually warm temperatures, as much as 40 degrees above normal, led to extremely rapid snowmelt and runoff, with subsequent ice movement and jamming.

Incidentally, social media was a wonderful tool during that flood as people were able to get real-time, boots-on-the-ground information from the flood zone, including photos of the rapidly rising water.

Now regarding our upcoming spring melt season, there is a new tool to use this spring. A collaborative Facebook Page has been established, called “Aroostook County Flood Watch”. WAGM, the Aroostook Emergency Management Agency, the National Weather Service in Caribou, and the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office, will use this page to get the latest information on flooding out to citizens and also, and of equal importance, to collect information from citizens on what they are seeing, with respect to ice movement or flooding.

When you go to that page, again called, Aroostook County Flood Watch, underneath the photo of the river with the broken ice, you will see a box where it says “Write Something on this Page.” This is where you would enter any text data. Above the box is a small camera icon that you would click on to add a photo. When posting information, please make sure to include time and location.

Your information along with information submitted by everyone else will all be under “Visitor Posts” on the right side of the page. So everyone can see what is going on and everyone can be a citizen observer. This will truly be a valuable resource for us all, as we head into the spring melt season in the weeks ahead.

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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