CARIBOU, Maine — The second major snowstorm to hit Aroostook County this week already had the total snow depth at 22 inches in Caribou by late Thursday afternoon, more than the highest depth of 15 inches during last year’s unusual winter, according to the National Weather Service.
A combination of heavy, wet snow falling steadily on The County and strong winds and rain pounding the coast also knocked out power to thousands of Mainers on the first day of December.
After about 10 inches of snow fell on central Aroostook County during a storm Tuesday into Wednesday, Thursday brought another round of snow to northern Maine, with up to 18 inches of snow forecast for the St. John Valley through the evening.
Many schools, local government offices and several stores in Aroostook County were closed Thursday as heavy snowfall and 10-15 mile-per-hour winds brought whiteout conditions in the morning.
More than 3,000 Emera Maine customers, most of them in Hancock County, and nearly 1,300 Central Maine Power customers, most in Lincoln County, lost power at one point Thursday morning. The reported outages stretched from Cumberland County to Washington and Aroostook counties, with utility crews struggling to conduct repairs, while more cropped up elsewhere.
“Snow in Aroostook County, a mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain in the central highlands, and strong, gusty winds [along the coast] are keeping crews busy from Eagle Lake to Stonington,” Emera officials wrote in a prepared statement around 7:40 a.m.
At about 5 p.m. Emera was still dealing with just over 2,000 outages in Aroostook, Penobscot, Washington and Hancock counties, with the vast majority in Aroostook. Some 1,164 customers were without electricity in the Ashland and Portage area and another 320 in the Allagash/St. Francis region.
Emera officials warned the public to exercise caution when approaching work crews and using generators, which should always be operated outside, and to stay away from downed power lines.
By 5 p.m., CMP was down to about 400 outages in Kennebec County.
By 1 p.m. more than 10 inches had fallen in Caribou and 13 inches in New Sweden, according to the National Weather Service. The agency advised caution on the roads throughout the day and said that a period of “patchy drizzle” could lead to ice and more hazardous driving after the snow tapered off in the early evening.
The forecast called for possible isolated snow showers Friday and Saturday and cool, dry weather through the first half of next week, with low temperatures in the single digits in The County and teens in Bangor.
In northern Maine, the snowfall and cold should be good news for winter recreation lovers, offering a solid foundation for snowmobile, ski and snowshoe trails.
Last winter was the warmest winter on record in the Caribou area, with an average temperature of 21.6 degrees for the months of December, January and February, according to the NWS. The snowfall and snow depth also were significantly below-average because of the above-normal amount of rain and mixed precipitation during the same three-month stretch.
On Thursday, Katherine Keenan of Houlton said that her two children were “thrilled” that SAD 29 in Houlton experienced its first cancellation of the year and that it appeared that it would be a white Christmas this year.
“The first thing they did when they got up this morning was turn on the radio and get all excited that they had no school,” she said.
Mary Calahan of Houlton said that the snow has got her in the mood to put up her Christmas decorations.
“Normally I would wait until mid-December,” she said. “But maybe I just might haul them out early,” she said Thursday.
BDN writers Bill Trotter and Jen Lynds contributed to this report.