Snow in Maine from a hurricane

Ted Shapiro, Special to The County
8 years ago

Other than the fact that the title above has a nice ring to it (stop here and read it again), what the title says really did happen, back in late October of 1963.

And Hurricane Ginny was the storm that did it, as it was able to draw down some cold air from Quebec into its northwestern flank, while transitioning from a hurricane to a strong post-tropical storm, as it headed toward southwestern Nova Scotia. (“Post-Tropical,” by the way, is a science-y way of saying it wasn’t still a textbook hurricane.)
However, having originated in the tropics, Ginny was still chock-full of moisture, and when that moisture interacted with the colder air, a very significant snowstorm struck northern Maine, a storm which, tragically, resulted in two deaths. A female climber and a Ranger searching for her were lost when up to 4 feet of snow fell in Baxter State Park. The official total at Caribou was just shy of a foot, while 17 inches fell at Moosehead Lake.
Now sometimes the weather gets even more unusual, and such was the case with the snow from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In this case the storm was being yanked inland by the jet stream, such that it was approaching straight from the East. Given that hurricanes are like all northern hemisphere low pressure systems, in that the winds blow in a counter-clockwise direction around the low pressure center, mild air flooded in off the Atlantic, north of the circulation center as it moved westward, while cold air was pulled to the south of the center. Basically the same concept as Ginny, but kind of turned on it’s side.
So the heavy snow, which, if there was to be snow would typically be to the northwest of the storm, was instead to the southwest, causing West Virginia to get buried in up to 3 feet of snow from a storm making landfall on the New Jersey Coast, near Atlantic City!
While on the topic of Hurricane Sandy, which like Ginny was a late-October storm, I would like to mention Sandy’s astonishing flooding. To understand why the flooding was so severe on Staten Island, to understand why subways were flooded in lower Manhattan, and to understand why New Jersey was ravaged by coastal flooding, just Google map NYC, then zoom out so you can see the ocean and the entire Northeast U.S., then zoom back in so you can see both the Hudson and the East rivers. Now picture a huge arm, scooping water from the sea toward the land, just like a kid would do in a bathtub, discovering the joy of making water splash over the side. Only there was no joy brought by Sandy. Water was forced westward in Long Island Sound, toward the East River, while it was also forced westward south of Long Island itself, right toward Staten Island.
There are many incredible Youtube videos of Sandy’s flooding. I suggest you watch a few, to fully understand the power of water.
By the way, the track (or path) of each of these storms can be found on the Internet by simply opening up a Google window and typing “Hurricane Ginny track” and then “Hurricane Sandy track”.
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.