CALAIS — It hasn’t been the easiest of winters Down East, where the unofficial snowfall total for Eastport already is a half a foot higher than the previous record of 169.6 inches set during the winter of 1906-07.

Municipal officials in Eastport, Calais and Lubec continue to battle with snow piles, high winds causing drifting and the associated costs even as meteorologists point out that, though spring arrived March 20, more snow may fall this season.

“We’re approximately 40 percent ($10,000) over our overtime budget for the winter,” Calais City Manager Jim Porter said this week.

Many of the storms happened overnight or on weekends, so public works employees had to work overtime to clear the roads.

“It’s put a strain on public works employees,” Porter said.

Municipal managers in Eastport and Lubec in eastern Washington County similarly point out that snow removal efforts are pushing their public works budgets to the limit or beyond this season.

“We had to bring in contractors we didn’t budget for — multiple times,” John Sutherland, Lubec town manager, said this week.

Eastport has seen 177.2 inches of snow so far this winter season, according to unofficial measurements, Tim Duda of the National Weather Service at Caribou said this week. Lubec’s total is up to 131 inches, but he did not have information on snow totals in Calais.

Because the statistics come from different observers and are not considered official, meteorologists are reluctant to talk in terms of snowfall records for Eastport.

“Eastport is a bit tricky in that the observer who has measured the 177.2 inches this season is a new observer,” National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Foisy said. “The previous observer measured up to 2013 and retired.”

According to the measurements that have been kept for Eastport, the average seasonal snowfall recorded by the previous observer is 57.8 inches. The most seasonal snowfall ever recorded for Eastport was 169.6 inches during the winter of 1906-07. The season by NWS standards runs Oct. 1 through April 30, and records have been kept since 1896.

The nearest official weather station is Bangor, which has seen 132.7 inches so far this season. This is more than twice the seasonal average of about 60 inches, Duda said.

The record snowfall for Bangor is 181.9 inches, measured during the 1962-63 season.

Meteorologists were unable to say what the snowfall record was for the entire state, because many of the measurements are considered unofficial. However, meteorologist Donald Dumont provided a list of the unofficial records for various cities and towns in Maine. The highest seasonal snowfall registered was 238.5 inches during the winter of 1968-69 at Long Falls Dam in Dead River Township in northwestern Somerset. Another 16 measurements over the years also exceeded Eastport’s current season total.

Whatever the amounts, though, it’s obvious by looking around that snow continues to be a problem Down East. In Calais, large snow piles obscure the buildings behind them.

Calais crews haven’t removed snow from municipal parking lots but instead concentrated on sidewalks.

“We try to keep the sidewalks clean the best we can,” Porter said.

In Lubec, the issue has been keeping up with equipment and vehicle maintenance. Usually, there’s time for maintenance after storm cleanup, but this year the storms just kept coming, one after another.

“We focused on moving banks back, widening intersections. … We got to maintenance when we could,” Sutherland said.

In addition, Lubec crews are still contending with drifting snow. Just this past weekend and Monday high winds caused whiteout conditions and drifts that created traffic hazards in parts of the state, including in Washington County.

“We still have some areas where drifting is a problem, so we’re trying to keep up,” Sutherland said Monday.

All three municipalities have so-called snow dumps, areas where they try to take and store snow removed from roads and sidewalks until the weather improves enough for melting to occur. Eastport’s snow dumps are full, however.

It’s illegal to dump snow into the bay, Eastport City Manager Elaine Abbott said, but “we wound up having to do that. Once we filled our snow dumps, it just kept coming.”

The state Department of Environmental Protection has opted not to prosecute in Eastport’s case, she said, because of the unusual circumstances.

Abbott said the state Department of Transportation provided two trucks and drivers to help with snow removal. Private citizens and businesses also have assisted with manpower and equipment.

Eastport’s budget certainly would be worse if it weren’t for the assistance, she said. “We’ve really been pulling together.”

But as Duda, the NWS meteorologist points out, there may be more snow coming ahead and a need for more pulling together.

“Winter’s not quite over yet,” he said.


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