Deb Dumond of Gorham stands in the pear orchard Sunday before getting to work picking at Orchard Ridge Farm in Gorham. Owner Steve Bibula said the pears, which normally average the size of baseballs, are significantly smaller this year and he believes it is because of the drought. Bibula also said he thinks that the drought in late spring, especially right after the flowering of the trees, also led to a much smaller crop of some apple varieties. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

An unusual September weather pattern is threatening Maine with fire and frost, cutting short the growing season while placing the entire state in “high” danger of wildfires, the Maine Forest Service says.

The forest service on Sunday labeled all of Maine at “high” risk for wildfires – the middle of its scale, above “moderate” and “low” but below “very high” and “extreme.”

The National Weather Service also warned of fire danger this weekend, as minimum relative humidity dropped to near 30 percent on Sunday afternoon. Dry conditions will persist with elevated fire danger again possible on Tuesday, as gusty winds combine with low humidity, the weather service said.

A state-by-state drought monitor maintained by the University of Nebraska listed most parts of Maine as in either “moderate” or “severe” drought, with one part of Aroostook County – and a tiny sliver of Penobscot County – in “extreme” drought. The drought has lasted for months, with low rainfall through much of the summer.

But also on Sunday, the weather service warned of freezing overnight temperatures in northern and Down East Maine. The warning lasts from midnight to 9 a.m. Monday, and encompasses much of Aroostook, Somerset, Piscataquis, Penobscot, Hancock and Washington counties.

“Frost and freeze conditions will kill crops and other sensitive vegetation,” the weather service said.

Farmers and amateur growers of vegetable gardens alike should take steps to “protect tender plants from the cold,” the weather service said.

Charlie Lopresti, chief meteorologist at WGME-13 and an avid pumpkin grower, posted photos of a frosted pumpkin patch on Sunday morning. He noted how short the growing season had been, despite a record hot summer.

“Hottest summer on record, but one of the shortest growing seasons in recent years for us,” he said. “Frost June 1st and Sept 20th.”

Portland logged its hottest summer on record this year, with an average temperature of 70.5 degrees Fahrenheit – more than 3 degrees warmer than the historical average, which has been charted since 1940. The average temperature this summer was 1.5 degrees warmer than the last record, set two years ago, and 3.6 degrees warmer than the average summer temperature in the city.

The new record may not stand for long, forecasters say.

The combination of persistent drought, late spring frost and economic fallout from the coronavirus has been devastating to Maine’s wild blueberry businesses, industry experts say.

Early signs point to this year’s crop yield falling nearly by half, according to the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine. Demand for wild blueberries has increased recently, however, giving hope to industry analysts.


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