GROUNDHOG DAY, Nor’easters and Tiny Little Islands in Maine

The view from Barters Island, Maine

Our tiny little island in Maine

Oh my!  Looking at the calendar this morning I realized that Wednesday is February 2nd or more, importantly, it is Groundhog Day in the USA.

Now, we all know that the nation’s official groundhog lives in Punxsutawney, PA – hence the name Punxsutawney Phil and that if he sees his shadow when he climbs out of his burrow at Gobbler’s Knob, there will be six more weeks of winter weather.  If he does not see his shadow, there will be an early spring.

Thinking about Phil, I realized that I had not seen one of his species in Midcoast Maine since Richard (my husband) and I relocated to Hodgdon Island Inn last year. I have seen gulls, loons, geese, crows, eagles, osprey, seals, red foxes, wild turkeys, red squirrels, grey squirrels, porcupines, lobsters and the occasional Maine Coon cat in my travels around Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Wiscasset and Damariscotta, but no groundhogs!

My curiosity got the better of me so I called up my favorite search engine and went looking for “groundhog day in Maine”.  Boy did I get a surprise! 

Storm surge

Storm surge in Boothbay Maine

Up popped information on what was termed “a notable nor’easter” aka The Groundhog Day Gale of 1976.  When all was said and done there were no deaths as a result of this massive four-day long storm, but it ravaged the coastal areas of Maine and left behind over $2M worth of damage.

Apparently it all started when an upper cyclone was stationary on January 28 across the Desert Southwest of the United States.  A system in the northern branch of the Westerlies known as a Saskatchewan Screamer, similar to an Alberta clipper, moved east-southeast across Canada beginning on January 30, luring the system in the United States eastward. The cyclones merged by February 2, becoming a significant storm over New England before lifting northward through Quebec.  By February 6, the storm finally dissipated.

 In Maine, winds had gusted to 60 knots (69 mph) in Rockland and 100 knots (115 mph) at Southwest Harbor. Blizzard conditions were experienced for a few hours as the storm moved up into Canada. Coastal flooding was seen from Brunswick to Eastport.  A tidal surge went up the Penobscot River flooding Bangor for three hours.  About 200 cars were submerged and office workers were stranded until waters receded.

Oh my!  Now we knew, from our many previous visits to Maine dream-hunting, that Nor’easters usually occur in Maine in the months between October and April, and we were also aware that they can form at any time of the year.  What we didn’t know was just how long a shadow good ol’ Punxsutawney Phil can cast!

Nor'easter at work

The term "nor'easter" is often used to refer to any strong rain or snow storm that occurs in the northeastern US

I must admit, that as I check the weather updates this afternoon, I am looking at the predicted storm which is supposed to hit us here on our tiny little island in Maine on Wednesday a little differently than I did yesterday.  I wish all of us (especially Phil) a very overcast Groundhog Day 2011!

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