Winters in Windham are never easy. There are below-zero temperatures, icy roads and walkways, frigid winds and, of course, snow. Lots and lots of snow. And over the course of the last two centuries, there have been some lollapalooza storms that blasted their way to our town.

In March 1888, a nor’easter blustered up the Atlantic coast from Chesapeake Bay all the way to Maine. The storm raged on for two treacherous days, killing more than 400 people, including 100 at sea where 200 ships were lost in the blizzard’s fury. Winds reached up to 85 mph at the height of the gale. When it was over, Windham found itself buried in up to 3 feet of snow, with drifts as high as 40 feet in some places.

Trees with branches covered in white are a familiar sight during snowy Maine winters. Haley Pal / For Lakes Region Weekly

The storm came at a bad time of year for many local farmers who were beginning to plow their fields. Gardeners looked out their windows and lamented that their crocuses, just popping up from their winter nap, were again covered in a thick blanket of white. Telegraph and telephone lines were down everywhere and trains across New England were at a standstill. Some trains were stuck in massive snowdrifts, while others were just unable to leave their stations, stranding hundreds of people. The storm became known as the Great Blizzard of ’88 and to this day, it is one of the most severe snowstorms in American history.

Another notable winter storm came in 1978. The Blizzard of 1978 ran its course Feb. 6-7, right on the heels of a January blizzard that dropped up to 21 inches of snow over Maine. Taking place during a new moon, there were unusually high tides all along the East Coast. The snow developed in the afternoon and piled up rapidly, leaving many people stranded between work or school and home.  Winds gusted to 100 mph and the snow accumulated to over 40 inches in the hardest-hit areas.

Windham Historical Society member Walter Lunt remembers the day very well.

“I was working at a 24-hour, all-news radio station in Scarborough. My shift began at 4 p.m. Driving from Windham to the studios was a challenge and the storm only got worse during the evening,” Lunt recalled. “We broadcast the storm news all night, including updated weather conditions, public works and police activity. When my shift was over, the roads were too slippery and snow-covered for me to return home. I fell asleep at the station to the clacking noise of the Associated Press and United Press International teletype machines.”


Town Clerk Linda Morrell also had a memory to share about the stormy event.

“It was my senior year in high school,” Morrell reminisced. “I was dating my husband, Tim, at the time and I was visiting his family’s farm. My mom called, worried, she wanted me to come home. Tim feared his two-wheel drive truck wouldn’t make it in the snow and so we boarded his snow machine and took off for my house. When we got to Walter Partridge Farm Road, we hit a drift and the machine flipped us over. We were fine and he did get me home safely. I don’t remember if I told my mother what had just happened. I’m thinking probably not.”

This storm was known as the “Storm of the Century” until March 1993 when a superstorm of magnificent ferocity hit New England. With $9 million in damages caused by its powerful might, this was to be the costliest storm in American history.

“It was three days of crippling snow, whirling seas, coastal flooding, blizzards, tornadoes and bone-chilling cold,” said John Galvin of “Popular Mechanics” at the time.

It knocked out power for 10 million people and shut down every airport on the East Coast. Windham residents found themselves digging out of up to 2 feet of snow, but the snow was not the worst of it. With winds of up to 100 mph hour, this whirling dervish of a storm was like watching a white hurricane raging its way across the countryside.

We haven’t had much snowfall yet this winter and we certainly haven’t seen a “storm of the 21st century” just yet. This year, many of us find ourselves hunkered down due COVID-19. So when the next snowy day arrives, we may as well sit back and enjoy it. Light a fire, have some hot chocolate and think to yourself, “Let it snow.”

Haley Pal is a Windham resident and an active member of the Windham Historical Society. She can be contacted at

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