Dec. 17, 1970: A nor’easter sweeps over Maine, bringing snow to much of the state, and the largest amount falls in the place that has the least room to dispose of it – Portland.

In what turns out to be the city’s biggest snowfall to date in a single 24-hour period, the storm brings up to 22.8 inches of snow accompanied by 35-mph winds, according to the National Weather Service. Abandoned vehicles litter the Maine Turnpike in the Portland area. Most schools are closed for two days.

Another coastal community, Brunswick, gets 21 inches. Inland cities and towns receive far less, the reverse of what often happens in snowstorms.

Little do city residents know that they are slogging through merely the opening act of what the Maine Sunday Telegram later calls a “1-2-3 walloping.”

Another near-blizzard strikes on Christmas Eve, forcing plow drivers to work 30-hour shifts. The storm closes the turnpike, causes many accidents resulting in injuries, strands hundreds of travelers and costs businesses thousands of dollars in lost Christmas shopping revenue.

In Biddeford, about 100 sidelined travelers spend the night of the 24th in strangers’ homes, churches and Biddeford Junior High School.

Late on the 25th, everything was open again. After a 2-inch dusting on the day after Christmas, the weather service calculates Portland’s total snowfall for the month at 54 inches, and Brunswick’s at 70 inches.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]


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