The older I get, the more I catch myself saying “When I was a kid….” and it’s usually a point I’m trying to make to my own kids. After all, I did walk up hill and barefoot both ways to school. These days, in my professional world, I’m surrounded by “I remember when I was a kid” quotes pertaining to weather. I love it because I get to hear interesting stories from memorable storms or intense winters I might not have experienced. For some reason we all gravitate to the most impressive snowfall winters occurring when we were little. And why not, we’ve had some big winters over the years including extreme cold and snow. As a kid those are memories that stick with you for life, but how accurate are our weather memories in comparison to our adult life? The data would suggest, not very. In recent years, we’ve had some of the snowiest winters in 133 years of records, and even some of the coldest.
This winter has been historical from many different angles. Starting in late January, the weather has been the topic that everyone is talking about. Here are some of the interesting stats on this winter so far.
Coldest February– Portland just completed the coldest February on record. Those records go back to 1941 at the Jetport. Bangor and Caribou also recorded their coldest February on record.
Prior to 1941, records were kept at a different location in the city and the gold standard for coldest winters has always been 1934. To my knowledge that was the last time people cold walk from Portland to Peaks Island on sea ice.
So I looked up 1934 and it turns out this Feb. 2015 was 0.1° colder. If it’s going to be that cold, at least we have bragging rights.
Not only was it the coldest February on record, but we also tied Jan 1981 for the 2nd coldest month on record.
It’s not just this winter either. March 2014 was the 4th coldest on record for Portland and the winter 2013/2014 was 22nd coldest overall.
It was only 6 years ago Maine recorded the coldest temperature on record of -50° at Big Black River. I remember the morning of Jan 16th 2009 well. It was the coldest temperature I experience (not living on Mount Washington) with a low of 26.5 in my back yard.
Six of the last eight winters have been snowier than normal in Portland. The Jetport averages 61.8″ of snow annually. Here are the seasonal totals since 2007/08
-2007/2008 103.0″ (5th snowiest on record)
-2014-2015 90.0″ (so far)
The all time single storm snow fall record occurred two years ago and 4th on the list happened this winter Jan 27th and 28th. Snow records go back to 133 years.
A few of the more interesting snow statistics involve the past three meteorological winters (Dec,Jan, Feb). Of the 133 years of records the past three years fall 11th, 12th, and 13th snowiest.
Now back to my original point about “When I was a Kid.” My opinion on the snow topic is not that we’re liars, or our memory is bad, but our perception of the world was different when we were young.
- As kids we were small: The snow banks sure did look big when we were three feet tall because they were. As grown adults that same snow bank may look half the size.
Children have small legs and a 2 foot snow pack may be waist high or higher for little ones. I amused myself with this after the Jan. blizzard playing with my kids who have a hard time moving in waist deep snow. They had fun too.
This little guy, stuck in chest deep snow, grew up to be a meteorologist. He loved snow as a child and still does! I wonder where I can get a cool orange striped winter jacket like that these days.
- Snow removal: Snow banks most likely were higher when we were kids for the simple reason, we shoveled. These days, snow blowers can throw snow into your neighbors yard (if you’d like) instead of piling high next to the driveway with a shovel.
In big cities, snow removal has become more and more popular. Many years ago, piles six feet high would be common, but these days machines and dump trucks remove most of that.
- Plows: Plows have come a long way just in the last 30 years. The trucks in combination with the advanced hydraulic systems can handle just about any type and amount of snow.
Many years ago that wasn’t the case. The blizzard of 1978 in Massachusetts is the best example I can think of. This picture has become a classic and shows how cars were abandoned on Rt 128 during that storm. Just too much snow in a short period of time.
It’s my opinion this will never happen again thanks to advances in machinery and plows.
There is no question this winter and some recent winters will give Maine’s current youth some great memories to be used a half century down the road. I foresee many ” I remember when I was a kid” quotes many decades from now.