MARCH-ing orders

The severe blowing and drifting early last week produced the worst travel conditions that many County folks could recall.

A plow operator who’s been on the job for 13 years wrote that it was the worst he’d seen in his time on the job.

The snowdrifts, the snow banks — why, it’s almost like looking around and seeing an alien planet.

Alien planet or not,  I think many folks would like to give the month of March some marching orders.

But the problem with March is that March doesn’t listen. March marches to a march that only March can hear. One year it might bury Caribou with 28.6 inches in a single day (March 14, 1984); in another you might see late-season bitter cold (-1 for a high temp on March, 11, 2017); and, believe it or not, mischievous March has sent temps soaring into the 70s, when, from the 20th through the 22nd in 2012, Caribou saw readings of 73, 75 and 73. (Unfortunately, the rapid melt caused by the unusual warmth led directly to the Perth-Andover ice jam flood.)

Nationally, March has delivered some of the most infamous winter storms on record, including the famed Blizzard of 1888, and, 105 years later, in March of 1993, an astonishing winter storm, which scores highest on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale, developed by Paul Kocin and Louis Uccellini of the National Weather Service. They developed it to rank storms based on their impact in the Northeast, since major winter storms in the northeastern U.S. have a huge impact on the rest of the nation, with air travel just one example.

I was actually in that ferocious March storm back in ’93, at, of all things, a weather conference in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.  There, I saw a scene perhaps never seen in a bar. The TV was turned to the Weather Channel, and a crowd of meteorologists were cheering as the snow totals were coming in. (That’s almost a Far Side cartoon, now that I think about it.)

While the average amount of snow at Caribou does begin to head down in March, 18.3 inches vs February’s 22.2 inches, March can still deliver monster months, as happened in 1955, when 47.1 inches blanketed the city. But March can be miserly too, like in 2006, when M. Nature saw fit to deliver a mere 1.4 inches.

Back to our current winter reality. Just where does this prodigious snow season rank, through the end of February? That’s an easy one. Or shall I say, “number one”?  That’s right, for the snow season through the end of February, Caribou has received more snow than in any other season on record: 147.0 inches. If you are wondering about 2007-2008, which holds the record for a full snow season, with 197.8 inches at Caribou, back in 2008, at the end of February, Caribou had received 145.5 inches. But March of 2008 then went wild, with 45.2 inches falling. That’s two and a half times normal, a tough pace for this March to match.

Irrespective of snow totals, though, it’s snow depth that is remarkable this year. At this writing, St. Francis is reporting 48 inches on the ground. Presque Isle has 47 inches, and Caribou has 43 inches. Wondering about the deepest on record at Caribou? That would be 62 inches, back in February of 1977.

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

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