FORT KENT, Maine — “The light’s green, and we are going,” Beurmond Banville, president of the board for the 2016 Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Races, said Friday morning.
After more than an inch of rain fell on the area Thursday, the Can-Am board of directors met in Fort Kent that night to review final preparations and trail conditions for the event scheduled for March 5-8.
An unusually mild winter, which saw much less snowfall than normal, coupled with the rain this week had some wondering whether the races would take place.
“We had a long discussion,” Banville said. “Our trail people tell us they are ready for a race.”
A storm dropped 6 inches of snow on the Fort Kent area Wednesday, but that was followed by a night of rain, according to the National Weather Service station in Caribou.
A total of 1.67 inches of “liquid equivalent” of precipitation was recorded in Frenchville, Wednesday and Thursday, NWS meteorologist Francis Kredensor said Friday.
“Most of that was rain,” he said.
There was enough rain and the temperatures were high enough for a flood watch to be in effect Thursday through noon Friday.
As much as possible, Can-Am organizers avoid having race trails cross waterways, Banville said, and no significant problems have been reported in the areas where they do cross.
The signature 250-mile race basically runs from Fort Kent to Portage and back through the Allagash wilderness.
A portion of the trail on Portage Lake, which has sufficient ice depth to support racers and spectators, still may need to be rerouted, he said, if there is not enough snow to cover the glare ice on the surface.
“We want it to be safe for the dogs and the mushers,” Banville said.
Banville said the long-range forecast calling for cool to cold weather and additional snow before race day was what organizers were looking for.
The region is expected to see a series of “quick-hitting systems,” in the next week, Kredensor said.
Whether or not these deliver more snow or a combination of rain and ice depends upon the eventual storm track, he said. Temperatures into next week are forecast to reach daytime highs between 20 and 30 degrees, according the weather service.
Current reported snow depths are 12 inches in Fort Kent and 16 inches near New Sweden, according to the weather service. Kredensor said snow depths farther west in the Allagash area are likely the same or deeper.
There are no changes anticipated for the start times on March 5 in downtown Fort Kent, which begin at 8 a.m.
Thirty-six mushers were registered in total for the three sled races — 30-, 100- and 250-mile competitions — as of Friday morning.