Snowstorm Sweeps over Coastal Maine with Concentrated Fury
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!