Blizzard conditions possible for coastal Maine Tuesday

Heavy snow for much of the state

For what generally has been a quiet month of March for Maine is taking a more active turn. As the state faces Ol’ Man Winter’s return on Tuesday with heavy snow and near blizzard level wind, another punch of snow is in the offing for the weekend. For now, it is one storm at a time.

The southwest coastal areas appear to get the brunt of this event as the storm appears to track over Cape Cod and into the Gulf of Maine. MidCoast and DownEast regions will certainly get their fair share of snow and wind, but with a projected track near Bar Harbor on up into Eastern Aroostook County, warm air may knock snow amounts down a bit due to a lower snow to water ratio. Concerns for power outages for coastal areas along the shorelines of Lincoln, Knox, Hancock and Washington counties are a real possibility for this event.

Tuesday morning commute

The morning ride to work for most southern and central Maine may see some lightly accumulating snow as outflow ahead of the storm works its way into the state. Given the very cold and dry air around the state, that may eat up a certain amount of moisture before the air column becomes saturated enough for the snow to reach ground and start to pile up.

Tuesday evening commute / overnight

As the storm tracks to the northeast during the day, conditions go downhill fast for southern and central areas by mid afternoon. Rapid snowfall rates as high as 2-4″ per hour or more at times are possible from around 2-4 PM onward into the evening.

Southern Maine can expect around a foot of snow on the ground by around 5 PM with it continuing to dump into the early evening, slowly diminishing with intensity by late evening. Snow tapers to snow showers in the wee hours of Wednesday, ending for Portland / Lewiston-Auburn / Fryeburg areas south by around 2 AM.

For the Bangor area, the DownEast region and the mountains, heaviest snows are on track from around 6 PM until around 11 PM. Snowfall rates again in the 2-4″ per hour range at times are possible during that time frame, with intensity gradually falling into the wee hours of Wednesday.

Central regions including the Western foothills, Capital District, Bangor, DownEast see heavier snow taper to snow showers around midnight, then tapering off completely by 5 AM.

If the snowfall velocity isn’t enough, the wind associated with the storm will make it worse. While this is a borderline blizzard (35+ mph wind, 1/4 mile visibility in heavy snow for 3 consecutive hours) for the entire Maine coast will experience blizzard conditions.

With the storm track close to the shoreline, snow of the heavier, wetter variety is likely to pile up on trees and power lines and power outages are a real possibility.

Coastal tides are running just under astronomical highs from the recent full moon. Flooding for low lying areas of the southwest coast may be relatively minor. Seas appear to run at less that 20 feet. Any beach erosion is likely to be limited.

Wednesday morning commute

Northern Maine sees the storm winding down by Wednesday morning with eastern zones of the Crown tapering off around noon. Snow showers appear to continue to persist for the western mountains on up through the Allagash for the remainder of the day, tapering off by around daylight on Thursday.

Snowfall Outlook

Confidence in the snowfall map appears good. As with any of these types synoptic storms there is always the element of surprise and bust potential. A track closer to the southwest coast could bring in a coastal front which may bring a brief period of rain or mix. Warmer air at the upper level may bring a period of sleet. A track further east changes the dynamic for fluffier snow for the southwest coast, which may add to the total. Dry slotting may also play a factor which may knock totals down. Any slowdown of storm progression could add to total amounts also, although guidance is in fair agreement that this will be an 16-20 hour event.

One thing is almost certain is that there is plenty of moisture for a significant snowfall and travel disruption for most of the state. If at all possible, arrive at your destination by mid-afternoon Tuesday and stay there until Wednesday morning. Road crews will have their work cut out for them to keep the roads in passable condition.

Another storm possible for the weekend

Thursday and Friday bring a slow but gradual warm up ahead of the next system to affect the state Saturday. A weak clipper drops down from western Quebec that may spin off a coastal low and bring snow / wintry mix to the region Saturday afternoon into Sunday.

Stay tuned.


-Mike Haggett

For official forecast information: please check in with National Weather Service Gray for Western & Southern Maine and National Weather Service Caribou for Eastern & Northern Maine.

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Special thanks to Tropical Tidbits and Pivotal Weather for their written permission to use their graphics in this post. Use of WeatherTAP images used within their written permitted terms of media use policy. Additional forecast information supplied by the National Weather Service, WeatherBELL Analytics and AccuWeather Professional.

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Mike Haggett

About Mike Haggett

As a Mainer for nearly five decades, Mike understands all too well the ever changing weather forecasts and surprises given the location and geography of the state. Spending much of his time as child outdoors fishing in all four seasons, keeping track of the weather was a must for personal safety. Living firsthand through the impacts of weather through many types of storms and phenomena, the idea came to mind for him to analyze it closer in 2011.