This week, Colby faced Winter Storm Stella, the College’s second brutal snowstorm of the season. The first, a month ago, left the Waterville area with an extra two feet of snow, and allowed for a snow day here at Colby. Newcomers to Maine might think this is a lot, but it is just one of the many intense winters that Colby and the state of Maine has faced over the years. There have been many record-setting snowstorms that Mainers might remember.
Just two years ago in Jan. 2015, Maine faced another blizzard, which ended up being only a small part of one of the harshest winters in recent history. The storm caused the first snow day at Colby in 17 years, and left 20 inches of snow in many parts of the state. In addition, the Bangor Daily News reported that over the ten days leading up to the snowstorm, 76 inches of snow fell on the city, a record for that time frame.
The last snow day before that, in 1998, probably should have been referred to as an “ice day” instead. During the first week of Jan Plan that year, Colby experienced a storm that led to much more freezing rain and ice than show, causing unprecedented damage at the College and throughout Maine. The storm left heavy layers of ice on the ground that many described to the Echo as unlike anything they had ever seen, which caused a great deal of trees to collapse, at Colby and in Waterville. It was referred to afterwards in Maine as “The Ice Storm of ’98.”
These three somewhat-recent snow storms were all brutal in Waterville, but none made it onto lists of storms that rank snowfall by region. In the Northeast, the worst snowstorm was in 1993. From March 12 to 14 of that year, the East Coast experienced what has since been named the “Storm of the Century.” Bringing heavy snow to the Northeast as well as extreme wind and rain as far south as the Florida Keys and Cuba, the New York Times referred to the storm as “a monster with the heart of a blizzard and the soul of a hurricane.” Maine was hit hard with over a foot of snow, but states farther south in the Northeast were hit even worse with over 40 inches of snow reported in some places, along with 70 mph winds and over 300 total deaths, according to a Portland Press Herald article.
Going back further in history, in Feb. 1952 Colby experienced what the Echo called their worst snowstorm since they had moved to the Mayflower Hill campus. The storm caused two days of class cancellations, and many in the school were unprepared, including maintenance. Several plows were stuck in the snow and were unable to plow, forcing students and staff to walk on snowshoes and cross country skis. In addition, the roads to campus were closed off for several days.
All of these storms were tough for Colby and the state of Maine, but the Northeast has seen nothing in the past century like what the Portland Press Herald calls “the most snow in living memory,” the Blizzard of 1888. Taking place from March 11 to 14, the storm ravaged not just Maine, but the entire Northeast and much of Canada. In some parts of the region, such as Connecticut, winds of up to 85 mph were reported, as well as snowdrifts of 38 feet.
Students at Colby must always be ready for harsh winters, including snow storms forcing power outages, school closures and hours of shoveling snow off our cars. But as tough as this winter might seem, there have been plenty of winters that have been far worse here on the Colby campus.