Freedom – April 6, 2008 – Friday’s snow brought the winter season total to 146.3 inches according to Caleb Boulter’s northconwayweather.com website, and 146.7 inches according to Ed Bergeron, the cooperative observer for the U.S. Weather Service. While the two weather watchers differed slightly in their totals, there was no disagreement in their conclusion: the winter of 2007-2008 is now the second snowiest winter in our area in modern times, eclipsed only by the legendary snows of 1968-69 when more than 164 inches fell.
While it’s possible that the all-time record could be broken by a surprise April blizzard, most observers think that’s unlikely. What’s more likely is that there will be high water when the accumulated ice and snow starts to melt, as will likely be the case this week with temperatures forecast to be in the fifties.
For those who spent the winter in Arizona or Florida, and even for those who wintered in not-so-far-away New York and Connecticut, a look at Canoe King’s Ossipee Lake webcam is startling. The calendar may say spring, but on the lake it’s still very much winter, with the lake frozen over and snow as far as the eye can see.
Bob Smart, who writes regularly about the lake for the Alliance, says snow melt activity started last Tuesday and resulted in patches of bare ground in some areas. But most of the ground is still snow-covered, and piles of snow are everywhere. At his home on Broad Bay, snow below his roof line and where plows have moved it in his driveway remain five feet or higher.
At the state’s Bearcamp River monitoring station, the level of the lake on April 6 was already just under the summer high water target of 407.25 feet. From his front window, Smart says he can see open water on top of the ice at about the 406′ level but says he won’t be able to take a measurement until another couple of days of melting creates a path to the lake.
On April 3 the state dam authority reported that all five gates at the Ossipee River dam were open and all stop logs had been removed, with water leaving the lake at a rate of 1,401.6 cfs. The question is whether the rapid pace of water leaving the lake can keep pace with expected snow melt and the chance of rain that’s expected next weekend.
The lake has seen its share of high water in recent years, with the level rising to 410.7 ft. in October 2005. Homes on Long Sands and other low-lying areas were flooded but were spared worse damage since the state had already implemented an early drawdown of the lake to its winter level to allow property owners to repair shorelines.
There was no such luck in June 1998 when 17.48 inches of rain raised the lake to 413 ft., an event Bob Smart chronicled in his history of the dam in the Alliance’s autumn 2004 newsletter. The shoreline was eroded and docks floated, sending them and their attached boats down the river to the dam where a number of craft were lost.
While no one is predicting floods this year, the potential is there.
“The point is that there is much more snow melt that will enter the lake before next weekend when we may get some rain,” Smart points out.
While we wait to see what Mother Nature has in mind, it’s instructive to reflect on the aftermath of the winter of 1968-69. Despite widespread fears of flooding, the season’s 164 inches of snow melted slowly and steadily over a period of weeks in moderate spring weather, resulting in minor high water in the usual places but no damage.
Then the summer brought a major flood. But that’s a story for another time.
[Do you have great pictures of this year’s snowfall on the lake? Share them on our Ossipee Lake Group site on Flickr. Go to the Community tab on our website or click here.]