A powerful ocean storm pummeled Down East Maine with strong winds and snow late Wednesday, after creating blizzard conditions earlier in the day in parts of Massachusetts.
Forecasters downgraded the snowfall totals for Maine from to 6 to 10 inches, down from a forecast calling for as much as 2 feet. Snowfall elsewhere in the state was negligible.
But the storm still packed a punch, with winds gusting to 60 mph causing scattered power outages.
Offshore, hurricane-force winds were reported. A weather buoy off Jonesport recorded a 107 mph gust, but weather forecasters questioned the accuracy of the reading.
The storm dumped as much as 10 inches of snow on Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard before pummeling eastern Maine with wind-whipped snow.
“We’re having a good ol’ blizzard,” said Suzannah Gale, owner of the Homeport Inn in Lubec, at the nation’s eastern tip. “There’s a lot of snow. It’s hard to tell how much because it’s blowing sideways outside.”
Up and down the coast, the wind caused havoc.
Central Maine Power Co. reported more than 3,400 power outages early Wednesday night, but by 10 p.m. the number of homes and businesses without power had dropped to just under 900.
At 5 p.m., Emera Maine, which services northern and eastern sections of the state, reported that high winds had knocked out power to more than 1,400 customers. Most of those outages were concentrated in Hancock and Washington counties.
At 10 p.m., Emera Maine announced on its website that “better than expected weather conditions” had helped its restoration efforts, reducing the total outages to just 45.
Steve Capriola, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said all of coastal Maine remained under a wind advisory Wednesday.
That advisory was expected to be lifted by 11 p.m., when winds were expected to weaken.
Capriola said everyone along the coast was buffeted by powerful winds throughout the day.
The Portland International Jetport reported wind gusts of 53 mph, and the former Navy station in Brunswick was hit with 49 mph winds.
Eastport reported winds of 54 mph, and the town of Brooksville in Hancock County had gusts of 57 mph.
Down East Maine, which many forecasters predicted would get as much as 20 inches of snow, got much less than expected.
Paul Fitzsimmons, a forecaster with the Caribou office of the National Weather Service said Eastport got about 8 inches of snow. East Machias got 6 inches and Ellsworth got just 2 inches.
“This storm was more of a sideswipe. Maine was on the western fringes of the storm,” Fitzsimmons said.
The storm had moved out of Maine and into the Canadian Maritime Provinces by 10 p.m.
Just days after the official end of one of the snowiest winters on record, the storm began heading up the Interstate 95 corridor on Tuesday.
As the storm moved north, it dropped about 6 inches of snow in southern Delaware’s Sussex County and blanketed parts of southern New Jersey, where 6Â½ inches of snow was reported in Cape May.
The combination of wind and snow created whiteout conditions that were blamed for a pair of pileups involving 40 vehicles Wednesday on Interstate 81 around Falling Waters, W.Va. Two people were killed and seven were injured, state police said. While hurricane-force winds were reported offshore, the region’s fishing fleet and commercial vessels had already scattered to safe harbors.
The bitter chill served as a bitter pill for people who were gearing up for warmer weather.
“It’s ridiculous — utterly ridiculous,” said Mark Krause, manager of Sagamore Beach Ace Hardware in Massachusetts, where snow shovels were put away recently to make room for lawn fertilizer.
“It’s supposed to be 50. Everyone’s supposed to be out working in their yards. I don’t get it.”
March is supposed to go out like a lamb, “but this is not a lamb,” said George Hermanspan, who was fueling school buses in the neighboring village of Cedarville. “It shouldn’t be happening. But Mother Nature does what she wants, and there’s nothing much we can do or say about it.”
Although spring began a week ago, it’s not unusual to have storms so late in the year, said weather service meteorologist Bill Simpson.
The Boston area got more than 2 inches of snow in an April storm last year, and was blanketed with almost 2 feet the same month in 1997.
In Maine, snowfall in late March is even more common
“You don’t put the shovel away until at least May,” Gale said at the Homeport Inn in Lubec. “You never know.”