Snowstorm Sweeps over Coastal Maine with Concentrated Fury

Coast of Maine

Snow was falling fast and furious during a January 12, 2011 northeaster along the Maine coast (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

For those of us who love winter and the cloak of snowfall that caps its icy reign, the promise of another round of snowy weather being carried up the coast by a January northeaster was rejuvenating to the spirit.

Sixteen days have passed since the Blizzard of 2010 whipped its extensive breadth of frosty white across Midcoast Maine, and though evidence of the storm has remained frozen on the ground since then, I for one found myself growing more snow-starved by the day. 

The two-week snowfall “drought” ended on January 12, 2011 when a winter storm warning went in effect at 7:00 am along the central coast of Maine. The forecast predicted upwards to a foot of snow, and of course, a good dose of gusty winds to help usher in the northeaster’s icy wrath.

My wife Ann-Marie and I decided it would best to get out and about at the crack of dawn to witness the arrival of this coastal menace before conditions deteriorated and forced us to hunker down at home for the remainder of the day.

Rockport Harbor

Soon after the snow started falling in Rockport Harbor, visibility fell with it (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

When we left our home at 6:45 am in route for Rockport Harbor, the first of the flakes were falling in a light manner but not yet accumulating on the roads. What we lacked momentarily in a blanket of white was more than made up for by an atmosphere whose mood was anything but playful.

In fact, the sky appeared draped in an ominous cloak of gray that suppressed the onslaught of daylight to a point where its sullenness could not escape notice, even well after what would have been sunrise.

Driving on, I commented to Ann-Marie that something was different about the “feel” of this snowstorm, but just what it was evaded me.

About an hour and a half later, the secret of the storm’s foreboding countenance was revealed in its rapid-fire ability to brandish about unusually heavy bands of snow. These concentrated bands of white, whipped to frenzy, wasted no time amassing on the roads and causing travel to quickly become a dicey proposition.

St. George River

The scene was a frozen wasteland along a tributary leading to the St. George River in South Thomaston (Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani)

As the wild scene kicked into high gear, I found myself thinking that this northeaster didn’t walk through the front door of the Gulf of Maine but rather burst through with its wintry weapons of snow and wind ablaze. At the height of its fury, snowfall rates were falling at up to three inches an hour.

Knowing full well that time was not on my side under these types of conditions, I decided to leave Rockport and head straight for Port Clyde, which is not far from my home, to check out Marshall Point Lighthouse. My thought was to obtain a quick glimpse of the raging scene on this exposed point and get out all within a few minutes.

So much for grand plans! Though I only spent about five minutes at Marshall Point, getting to and leaving the location was much more challenging than expected.

Based on normal snowfall conditions, I figured I had left myself enough time at the start of the storm to travel within a two-hour span and still have ample time to return home before driving conditions deteriorated. As I would come to learn throughout the morning, this was not your typical snow-laden northeaster.

To make matters worse, the last couple of roads leading to Marshall Point Lighthouse were unplowed and sitting under what appeared to about four or five inches of snow. My vehicle’s tires would be the first to “christen” these snow-covered back roads, which hardly brought feelings of exhilaration.

Marshall Point Lighthouse

The storm was plastering wet snow to the lantern of Marshall Point Lighthouse and obscuring its light (Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani)

As for Marshall Point Lighthouse itself, what a sight it turned out to be. Gale force winds were plastering snow to the tower’s lantern and all but obscuring the navigational light, save a glow that was visible in the upper part of the cupola.

Beyond the lighthouse, the majesty of winter graced the rocky shoreline with a touch of frozen delight that extended beyond its rightful reaches thanks to an ebb tide in full retreat.

Though there were no vessels to be seen on the storm-tossed waters, with heavy snow blotting out visibility on the seascape and a guiding light being shrouded more and more by the minute, I gave a thought to the safety of the mariner.

In a bygone era, the ever-watchful lightkeeper would have been clearing the snow from the lantern’s windowpanes and making sure the power of his light could extend as far as visibility would permit, but alas, this warm memory belongs to another time.

It was then that I realized the light station’s fog horn was blasting away in a vigilant manner, using its audible powers to do battle with the elements as the mechanical “eyes” of the fog detector chirped away during each sampling of the atmosphere.

Marshall Point Lighthouse

With visibility next to nothing, the fog horn at Marshall Point Lighthouse combated the elements with its bellowing "voice" (Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani)

The automated navigational equipment could do nothing to un-obscure the light like human hands surely would have done during storms from lighthouse lore, but I found comfort nonetheless in the fact that a guiding light and raucous horn were still part of Marshall Point’s modern day history.

I desperately wanted to linger at the site and take in the frosty chaos that was blowing and piling up around me, but a spark of common sense said otherwise. It was time to leave this magical place and get off the roads.

By 9:30 am Ann-Marie and I were back home with not a moment to spare. Snow continued to pile up fast and furious, which demanded a team effort to shovel; while the office work we brought home with us the day before awaited attention on our desks.

As I worked at my tasks for the remainder of the day at home, my mind wandered on occasion back to the sea, imagining the amazing power that was undoubtedly presiding over center stage of a white-capped seascape.

Such scenes would have to remain relegated to the imagination, but later in the day I heard weather prognosticators speak of the possibility of another strong winter storm for next week. The news of more wintertime magic on the way was music to my ears!

Now only if the storm’s severity would not have forced the closing of all the area Dunkin’ Donuts and Tim Hortons. I guess my coffee craving will have to wait until morning when business as usual returns once again to Midcoast Maine!

Rockport Harbor

Wind, snow and ice make their presence felt in Rockport Harbor (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Buoy

A retired buoy in Rockport Harbor can no longer toll its warning bell (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Andre the Seal

Snow begins to fall at dawn on the statue of Andre the Seal in Rockport Harbor (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Speed limit sign

The speed limit is anyone's guess during the snowstorm (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Lonely dory

A lonely dory along Rockport Harbor would soon be filled with a "boat load" of snow! (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Marshall Point Lighthouse

If only the bygone lightkeeper was still on duty to clean his lantern (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Goose River

The snowstorm begins to ramp-up over the calm waters of the Goose River in Rockport (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

St. George River

There was no seeing the St. George River just beyond the pines on this day (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Wet snow

A wet snow weighed heavy on trees (Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani)

Rockport Harbor

Even the fishermen were no where to be found during the snowstorm (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Ice

The depth of winter is becoming more apparent along the Maine coast (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Comments

  1. Dunkin’ Donuts closures! This IS serious!544444444444444444444444444444444444444444 Um. That’s a message from Billie Thistledown cat who stands on the keyboard when I’m ignoring him. The lighthouse with the giant falling flakes is wonderful! But too true about no keeper on duty.

    We’re to expect 81 degrees tomorrow in San Diego.

  2. Bill Broadley says:

    As alway your descritpion is fantastic. From the pilots point of view, I disliked heavy snow the most as it usually was accomplied with high winds, and the snow cluttered up the radars, especially when trying to find close in targets. It was always a challenged.

    Keep up the good work.

    Bill

  3. Colleen Richmon says:

    I’m new to Maine and am a lover of winter! It is a thrill to experience snow storms on the coast. My previous winters were spent in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I so enjoy your articles and photos and look forward to each one after the storms. Colleen

  4. Dave Kelleher says:

    Bob,
    Enjoyed your account of the Jan 12th storm in coastal Maine.
    Likewise I always look forward to snow covering up the bare brown ground and brightening the trees and bushes and the reeds along the shore of the cove.
    Here in Riverside we are on the snow/rain line influenced by the warmth of the ocean and bay and hence I always have to fear that these Northeasters would bring here that ocean air and spoil the snow amounts.
    This particular storm,although it did not rain or sleet, the snow was very wet and heavy,very difficult to shovel and now that it is frozen it will be with us for awhile.
    Here in R.I., the north western part of the state received 16-18 inches while the south eastern part received 7 to 10,8 to 9 here in Riverside.
    I did not get a chance to take any pictures of the lighthouse, maybe I will get out today and get a shot or two.
    Dave

  5. Mickey Russo says:

    Grew up in Cleveland and hated the snow but now that I live in Florida and enjoy the warmth, when I see pictures like yours I wish for a short time I was back in Damariscotta, summer place, just to experience the smell and feel of that white stuff. But just for a short time.!

  6. Elinor DeWire says:

    Beautiful! I miss living in Maine in winter, though this one looks like it might have caused some problems for everyone. I LOVE the Pemaquid images. Ann, are you willing to share some high res copies with me? Our membership would love to see what Down East lighthouses endure in winter. Thanks, and keep up the great work documenting our lighthouses.

  7. Anta Coupe says:

    Really beautiful, Bob and Ann-Marie,

    You keep Maine-in-mind for those away, and for us, too!

    Anita

  8. Marilyn Trask says:

    Thank you for sharing a view of our “incoming storm” day. It is amazing to be in blinding snow one day and today have this lovely sun.

  9. Patty Hughes says:

    You two are sooooooo brave to go out in that storm. I didn’t even like taking pics around my own house, on foot. Sure is nice to have a pair of yung’ns getting out there to capture it for us!! O the joy of a beautiful storm like this being enjoyed in the comfort of my own warm abode! Thanks Trapanis!!

  10. Cliff and Linda Trebilcock says:

    These are the most beautiful pics of our Maine weather. Thanks for sharing your pictures. Would love copys of the Lighthouse pics.Cliff is a former Lighthouse keeeper and we collect them. Thanks.

  11. BOB, YOUR PHOTOS MAKE ME COLD JUST TO LOOK AT ‘EM. OF ALL THE STORMS, MY PLOW GUY HAD THE HARDEST TIME WITH THIS ONE DUE TO IT BEING SO DAMN WET. THE LAST TWO STORMS HAVE BEEN MORE ABOUT “WIND” THAN ACTUAL ACCUMULATION. DID AL GORE KEEP HARPING ON GLOBAL WARMING OR WAS IT GLOBAL “WINDING”??

  12. Jeri Baron Feltner says:

    What beauty that God created, and you documented!

  13. Bob, thank you for taking me back, especially the snow hard on the side of Marshall Point light. Dad used to worry (and go outside to clean it off) that our light could not be seen with the snow frozen to the windows. His grave in Cuttyhunk Cemetery is shone over by the Gay Head Light and I always think it is appropriate that he is there with still a light to shine on him, and one we visited so many times ourselves.

  14. Vince Salvatore says:

    Bob and Ann-Marie,

    I love the Marshall Point Light shot with it’s monochromatic mood and a hint of color in the tower. I look forward to your images and stories!

    Thanks,
    Vince

  15. Norman Poindexter says:

    Hi Bob, as Always Just Looking at the Pictures Makes Me shiver.Good Job with them , as always.Thanks so mush Norm P.

  16. Thanks Ann & Bob,
    Great pictures! I think New England has seen more than its share of storms this year. Now we’re in for the deep freeze.

    Irma

  17. Jane D'Agostino says:

    As I view all your pictures of the Maine coastline, I am reminded of the stories that I have read about the lighthouse keepers and

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