Warm weather setting records

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LEWISTON — With the temperature a balmy 77, hot dog vendor Joseph Roy made his downtown appearance Monday.

College students swam in Poland’s Range Pond, and docks and boats are already out on lakes. Apple tree blossoms are in full bloom, three weeks ahead of schedule. Lilac trees are budding four weeks early.

Maine’s early spring seems to be giving way to an early summer.

The weather is unusual, said meteorologist Sarah Long of WGME’s Channel 13.

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March was the wettest and warmest on record in Portland, with that month’s average temperature at 39.9, Long said.

April’s average temperature was 48.8, beating the old record of 47 set in 1945, she said.

“We get records here and there, but to have two of the warmest months on record in a row, then to be starting off May in the 70s every day is extremely unusual,” Long said.

Most are happy “to welcome in the early summer warmth,” she said. But some are having flashbacks of last summer when it was cool and rained until August. “They hope we don’t end up paying for this,” Long said.

Jim Simones of Simones Hot Dog Stand was all smiles Monday as he shared what he did Sunday: put his dock and boat in the water at his Monmouth camp.

“It’s one of the earliest I can remember,” he said. “There were a ton of boats on the water. It was almost like the fourth of July.”

People were in a good mood, Simones said. “It feels good getting out on the water. We had the kayaks out, too.” Some were buzzing around on jet skis, others were fishing. A few went swimming.

Simones normally puts his dock and boat in around Memorial Day. “We’re a month ahead,” he said.

The Range Pond State Park opened for the season May 1, two weeks ahead of schedule. It opened early since “summer seems to be here,” said Park Manager Gordeen Skolfield.

A few state parks, Popham, Reid and Cresent, opened April 3, said Will Harris, director of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands. Other parks have had limited openings since then, and some campgrounds are already hosting campers.

“It’s a really good feeling for us, especially after last year,” Harris said. All the cold and rain meant lost revenue, he said. This year it’s as if “nature is making up for itself with the extraordinary early spring,” he said.

In Turner apple trees are at least three weeks ahead of schedule, “and have been since April,” said Harry Ricker of the Ricker Hill Orchards in Turner.

“Fruit farmers hate this because we have a danger of getting damage done.” With trees in bloom, a spring frost could stem or kill the growth of future apples, “so knock on a wooden table for me,” Ricker said. “It’s not unusual to get a spring frost until the middle of May. But we’ve made it four weeks without one, which is amazing.”

Ricker said he’s cautiously optimistic.

At the Provencher Landscape Nursery in Lewiston, mild weather is bringing out more customers buying flowers and plants. The early spring allowed the nursery to set plants in greenhouses earlier, said staffer Lorraine Roberge.

“We’re at the mercy of Mother Nature. This year she’s cooperating and we’re happy with her,” Roberge said.

University of Maine Extension educator Tori Jackson said flowering trees are blooming two to three weeks earlier, in some cases a month ahead. “It’s a little bit scary,” she said.

Summer-like weather is making home gardeners “extremely antsy.” They’re calling asking her if it’s OK to plant.

Her advice is go ahead with the “cold crops,” potatoes and peas, but wait before planting peppers, squash and tomatoes. “For three weeks we’re still in danger of a frost,” Jackson said. “I wouldn’t put anything out you’re not willing to lose.”

Not everyone is celebrating. Some worry it could be climate change.

Brownie Carson of the Natural Resources Council of Maine said he’s heard the alewives are running three weeks ahead with their migration up Maine rivers, which is highly unusual. “It seems that warmer years, and we’ve had a string of them in the last decades, are making real changes on the landscape,” Carson said.

 

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