March 19, 2013

For Maine weather, what a difference a year makes

By Edward D. Murphy emurphy@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Sometimes, it's better not to look back.

click image to enlarge

Daffodils beginning to sprout are buried by snow at Laurel Hill Cementery in Saco on Tuesday, March 19, 2013. Last year at this time many daffodils were in bloom at the cemetery.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer:

click image to enlarge

In this March 19, 2012 file photo, Gary Sams of Saco walks through Laurel Hill Cemetery in Saco where some of the daffodils were in bloom about a month earlier than usual. What a difference a year makes – Mainers on March 19, 2013 were digging out from the latest snowstorm.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

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After all, it would be cruel to point out that while temperatures hovered below freezing and snow fell all day Tuesday, exactly one year earlier, the temperature reached 70 in Portland.

And it would be especially harsh to note that 70 was actually a cool day for that week in March 2012, which peaked with a high of 82 on March 22.

A year ago, people were flocking to the beach. On Tuesday, the few hardy souls who went outdoors at all bundled up in winter parkas, trudging through snowbanks and bending into strong winds that made it feel even colder and snowier.

At Nonesuch River Golf Club in Scarborough, the eve-of-spring storm meant that the club -- which bills itself as Maine's first to open and last to close every season -- was likely still weeks away from having golfers head off down the fairway.

"You can't really plan on it being in the 70s in March in Maine," said Dan Hourihan, the owner and manager of Nonesuch and the Dunegrass Golf Course in Old Orchard Beach. "But this is tough to take for everyone."

Hourihan said the courses open in April in most years, so Tuesday's snowstorm wasn't really a setback.

"This is sort of a normal thing," he said, though he prefers the abnormal warmth that settled in early last year.

The storm is unlikely to affect another favorite warm-weather activity for Mainers.

Mike Skillin, co-owner of Skillins Greenhouses, said gardeners have to consider last year's weather a bonus that they shouldn't expect to be repeated. "Last year was super early," he said.

He said he hopes new arrivals to the area hadn't concluded last year that spring planting in Maine begins in mid-March.

"Maine gardeners know that, oftentimes, things that are planted in April or early May need to be protected" against frost, he said.

Longtime Mainers figure it's usually not safe to plant trees and shrubs much before the beginning of May, he said, and vegetables and other sensitive plants don't usually get put outside before Memorial Day.

"I call it, 'When people believe,' " Skillin said, referring to the moment when it feels like winter's grip is finally broken.

Last year, "the believe factor was high" very early in spring, he said. "This year, the 'we believe' concept -- well, the snow does not help that."

He urged those who are itching to get planting to buy seeds and bulbs and start them indoors.

Sales of those items are usually strong at this time of year, Skillin said, noting that many customers bought soil, pots and seeds at the Falmouth store's open house last weekend.

Even though climate change has brought some of Maine's warmest temperatures on record in recent years, Skillin said there's nothing wrong with a "normal" winter, including snow in March and sometimes as late as April.

'I've been telling our customers and staff that I think spring will happen right on time," Skillin said.

Even people whose business includes a plow are eager for that "right on time" to come soon.

"I'm not happy about seeing this," said Peter Kelly, the owner of Seabreeze Property Management in Portland, who on Tuesday afternoon was in the middle of a long day of plowing. "I want warm weather like everybody else."

Kelly said that at this time last year, he and his crews were well into landscaping.

This week's snow, and nature's refusal to switch seasons, will likely put him behind by a month or so in sweeping parking lots and getting started on landscaping, he said.

"We would have a lot more work going on if it weren't snowy," he said, noting that crews started on some spring landscaping last week, working around snowbanks. Now they will have to wait for more melting before getting back to those chores.

On Portland's mostly deserted streets, people took another hit from winter in stride.

Linda Carleton was headed to Longfellow Books on what was only her second day in Portland, after her move from Chebeague Island.

Although the snow was biting, she wasn't put off by the weather. "This feels right," she said. "It's still March."

Jane Stevens of Portland said she likes the reminder that weather includes snow and rain and wind, not just blue skies and warm temperatures.

Stevens said she's originally from Arizona, "where there is no weather."

She said, "I've got a coat, I've got boots. I'll deal."

 

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com

 

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Additional Photos

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Snow on Bayview Beach in Saco on Tuesday, March 19, 2013. Last year at this time you could see sunbathers.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

In this March 19, 2012 file photo, Rich Breton of Saco catches some sun rays on an unseasonably warm Monday at Bayview Beach in Saco. What a difference a year makes – Mainers on March 19, 2013 were digging out from the latest snowstorm.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

 


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