The Star-Herald

Full sigh of relief

You may recall the sigh of relief, with respect to flooding, was not complete last column, since the lakes were still high. Dwelling-damaging battering ice, such as happened last spring at Birch Point on Portage Lake, was still a possibility. Ice and waves can so some very serious damage to homes. Typing in this URL will take you to video of what occurred down at Grand Lake, near Fredericton:   

Until the lakes fell, I remained concerned about waves and battering ice on the lakes. But the lakes have dropped, and the rivers continue to recede, so NOW we can breath a “full” sigh of relief.

We truly pulled a rabbit out of the hat with respect to dodging serious flooding this year. As deep as the snow still was on April 1, to get nearly five inches of precipitation, about four-fifths of which was rain in the month of April, and somehow avoid significant flooding is a heck of a long shot. The water release had to be almost perfectly timed to avoid flooding that some guidance, about three days before the crest, was showing the St. John at levels exceeding the height attained during the 2008 flood. It had appeared that more rain would fall than did, and also, that temperatures and dew points would be much higher than they ended up being. The fact that it didn’t play out that way prevented one big pulse of water. Instead we got cool weather rain runoff, followed by warm weather runoff without rain — two drawn-out pulses of water, rather than one big one over a shorter period of time.

Again, the ingredients were there for historic flooding on the St. John and the Aroostook. The weather gods certainly smiled on us this spring. While some families were affected by the Washburn ice jam, in terms of large-scale impacts, we dodged a big-time spring flood bullet.

Now here in The County, we move from flood season to fire season in the blink of an eye. It surprises some people that spring fire season follows so closely on the heels of winter, but the reason is that as the snow recedes, it leaves behind dry grass, wind-felled branches, and other material which, when dried out, is ideal fuel for fires. And before spring green up, if you have a period of windy weather, with low relative humidity, watch out. Just like athletic apparel can wick, (or pull) sweat away from the skin, very dry air, constantly resupplied by wind, pulls moisture right out of everything. Any fire in these conditions can spread very rapidly.

A great place to get information on the fire danger for a specific day, is the Maine Forest Service website. Click on “Fire Danger.” You will see the fire danger broken into regions. The definitions for the different categories are below the map, toward the left side of the page, “Description of Fire Danger Rating System.”

So be careful with your fires and enjoy spring. It was a looooong time coming.

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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