Historic May snowstorm

4 years ago

Snowstorms which are remembered down through the generations are sometimes described as having been the heaviest in the memory of “the oldest living inhabitant.” I’ve always liked that line, and it was actually used a couple of Saturdays ago, on, of all days, the 9th day of May. 

That specific line was written by a resident of the community of Carlow, about 15 miles east of Mars Hill, in Carleton County, New Brunswick. There, 15 inches of snow fell, and an 89-year-old gentleman said with complete confidence that total far exceeded anything he had seen in the month of May in all his years. The highest total reported to me was 17 inches, up on Drake’s Hill near Houlton. 

Double-digit totals just south of Presque Isle were commonplace. Out by the fairgrounds in Presque Isle, 8.9 inches was measured, though up at the highest point in town, across from the SAD 1 school farm, a foot of snow fell. Totals dropped off considerably to the north. Caribou recorded 5.5 inches, which was the third highest single-day total on record in May. The 5.5 inches also vaulted Caribou into the “150-inch club.” There have only been eight snow seasons on record that have reached 150 inches or more. This season has seen 151.9 inches, the sixth most on record. 

Records at Caribou go back to 1939. Last season was also a member of the 15-inch club, ending at 165.4 inches. Normal for a season is 108.7 inches. If you added this season to last season and converted to feet, Caribou has received 26.4 feet of snow over the past two winters.

By the way, if you think it has been a snowy spring, you’re right. Snowfall since March 1 has been way above normal, and is blowing away last year. This year, since March 1 and through May 19, Caribou received 46.5 inches. Last year, for the same period, Caribou saw 18.4 inches. Normal for that period is 26.1 inches.

Other than the snowstorm, there was another very impressive May weather event. That was the exceptional daylight cold of May 12. At Caribou, at 7 a.m., the temperature was 35 degrees. By 1 p.m., it had fallen to 29. There were numerous showers of snow and sleet in The County as well. That 29-degree temperature on the 12th of May was the coldest 1 p.m. temperature for any day in May on record.

Finally, I would be remiss not to note the 40th anniversary of the deadly eruption of Mount St. Helens. The photo with this column is a U.S. Geological Survey photo of Mount St. Helens during the eruption. St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, and it erupted explosively, with a tremendous blast wave which denuded and flattened a huge expanse of forest. 

If you are interested in learning more about the eruption of Mount Saint Helens, this US Geologic Service 7-minutes video is superb: volcanoes.usgs.gov. It’s truly a “must-watch.”

After* you watch the video — not before — look up “volcano comparison chart.” You’ll see how the “big ones” dwarf St. Helens. It’s astonishing.

Ted Shapiro holds the Broadcast Seal of Approval from both the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association. An Alexandria, Virginia. native, he has been chief meteorologist at WAGM-TV since 2006. Email him at tshapiro@wagmtv.com