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Frequently Asked Questions


What causes the highest storm surges along the Maine coast?


Both hurricanes and winter or spring storms can cause significant storm surges along the Maine coastline. However, because the coast gets hit by many more winter storms than hurricanes, the greatest surges in the past have come from winter or spring storms. In fact, of the top ten surges recorded in Portland, nine were from winter/spring storms while only one was from a hurricane (Hurricane Carol, 1954, tie for 8th highest surge). The greatest surge reported in Portland was 4.3 feet on March 3, 1947. This compares with the 3.3 ft surge observed with Hurricane Carol.

On February 2, 1976, an intense winter storm caused a storm surge along the mid and Downeast coast of Maine from Brunswick to Eastport. After reaching the coast, the surge of water funneled up the Penobscot River causing a surge of over 10 ft in the city of Bangor. Reportedly, at around 11 am, the water level in the city rose more than 12 ft in just 15 minutes, submerging approximately 200 vehicles. Many people were trapped in buildings by the frigid water, and some had to be rescued quickly from the tops of their cars.

This "Question and Answer" is courtesy of the National Weather Service Forecast Offices in Gray and Caribou, Maine