Snow blitz

6 years ago

This year, the snow season started off slowly. In fact, several columns ago, I wrote: 

“To snow or not to snow? That is the question. Actually there’s an answer. And it is ‘not to snow.’ Through Dec. 4, Caribou has received a paltry 4.2 inches of snow, whereas last year by this time … Caribou [had] logged 33.5 inches. The average through today, Dec 4, is 14.8 inches. November and December together were very kind to snow enthusiasts last year, with Caribou logging a bit more than 60 inches (5 feet) in those two months alone.”

Well, things sure did kick into high gear shortly after that column. In fact, whereas that column mentioned a generous 60 inches of snow in a two-month period, we just came out of a 90-inch two-month period, with a shade more than 90 inches falling at Caribou from Dec. 9 through Feb. 9.

To put that number into perspective, the well-known former NBA player from China, Yao Ming, is 7-1/2 feet tall; 90 inches is 7-1/2 feet. So in two months, we got a “Yao Ming” of snow.

Two months; 90 inches. Impressive.

But, how about 90 inches in 24 hours? Well, pretty, close, anyway. Incredibly, the town of Silver Lake, Colo., in mid-April of 1921, received 87 inches of snow, in 27 HOURS.

Just imagine trying to move that.

Renowned for heavy snow are the Great Lakes snow belts. They can see giant snowfalls. In fact, this very winter, in late December, lake-effect snow dumped about 5 feet on Erie, Penn., in only two days.

While we are talking about snow totals, let’s look at the most snow recorded in the U.S. in a single month. Tamarack, Calif., holds the record for that, with 390 inches (32.5 feet) in January 1911. By comparison, Caribou’s heaviest month on record is 59.9 inches.

What about the U.S. record for an entire snow season? Well, an astounding 1,140 inches (95 feet) was recorded at Mount Baker Ski Area in Washington state during the July 1, 1998, to June 30, 1999, snow season. Let’s put THAT into perspective. It would be enough snow to cover a nine-story building.

If you are wondering why snow seasons run from July 1 to June 30, it is done that way to capture any particularly early-in-season snowfalls, and also to capture any particularly late-in-season snowfalls.

For Caribou, the earliest-in-season measurable snow on record (records go back to 1939) was back on Sept. 29, 1991, while the latest-in-season measurable snow was May 25, 1974. With respect to snow, “measurable” means at least 1/10th of an inch.

Now I know that some readers may have heard tell of snow in July. And if you believe you have seen it, I would love to talk to you, especially if you have pictures. The thing is, sometimes family stories get passed down through the generations, about “that time it snowed in July.” Those cases, in my experience, are when a thunderstorm has dropped enough hail to whiten the ground and then, like the kid’s game of “telephone,” the story morphs from white ground in July to “snow in July.”

OK, let’s talk about warmer weather, specifically, when the average high temperature at Caribou hits specific thresholds.

Based on the averages, the high temperature at Caribou makes it above the freezing mark (33 degrees) on March 13. The average high gets to 50 on April 19, 60 degrees by May 8, and 70 degrees by June 7. Caribou’s warmest average maximum temperature of 76 is reached on July 6, and runs through Aug. 9.

But remember, averages are NOT a guarantee of what is going to happen in a particular year, for back on May 16, 2016, Caribou received 4.5 inches of snow, and a viewer sent me a photo from Marston Road in Presque Isle with his ruler showing 8 inches, right on the nose.

But I’ll close by returning to some warmer thoughts. Today, Feb. 21, the sun is about one-third of the way from its lowest point, reached Dec. 21, to its highest point, which will  be reached June 21. And how’s this: we are three months and a day away from the date when Caribou saw one of its two hottest days on record. The mercury soared to 96 degrees on May 22, 1977. (The other 96 was June 29, 1944, which is also the year with the most 90-plus days, 11.)

As the sun gains altitude you can really feel the increase in radiant warmth on a sunny day.

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