Groundhog Day gale of 1976

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Groundhog Day gale of 1976
Groundhog Day gale of 1976 weather map.gif
Surface Analysis of the storm as it moved through New England[1]
Type Nor'easter
Formed February 1, 1976
Dissipated February 5, 1976
Lowest pressure 957 mb (28.26 inHg)
Maximum snowfall or ice accretion 56 inches (140 cm)
Damage $22 million (Mostly in Canada)
Fatalities Unknown
Areas affected New England and Atlantic Canada

The Groundhog Day gale was a severe winter storm that hit the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada on February 2 (Groundhog Day), 1976.

Synoptic evolution[edit]

An upper cyclone was stationary on January 28 across the Desert Southwest of the United States.[2] A system in the northern branch of the Westerlies known as a Saskatchewan Screamer, similar to an Alberta clipper but originating as a frontal wave in the next Canadian province to the east, moved east-southeast across Canada beginning on January 30, luring the system in the United States eastward. The cyclones merged by February 2, becoming a significant storm over New England before lifting northward through Quebec into the Davis Strait. At this time, maximum sustained winds reached 164 kilometers per hour (102 mph) in coastal areas (equal to a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale), with wind gusts of up to 188 kilometers per hour (116 mph). By February 6, this cyclone was absorbed by another system in the northern Canadian archipelago.[3]

United States effects[edit]


Caribou, Maine recorded one of its lowest pressures on record, with a reading of 957 hPa (28.26 inches). Winds gusted to 60 knots (69 mph) in Rockland and 100 knots (115 mph) at Southwest Harbor. Blizzard conditions were experienced for a few hours as the cyclone moved up into Canada. The storm caused extensive damage in many areas. Although many trees were blown down by the storm, many more were killed after large amounts of seawater were blown inland. Coastal flooding was seen from Brunswick to Eastport.[4] A tidal surge went up the Penobscot River, flooding Bangor, Maine for three hours around midday.[5] At 11:15 am, waters began rising on the river and within 15 minutes had risen a total of 3.7 metres (12 ft) flooding downtown. About 200 cars were submerged and office workers were stranded until waters receded. There were no reported deaths during this unusual flash flood. Damages totalled US$2 million (1976 dollars).[6]


Boston, Massachusetts set their second lowest pressure on record, with a reading of 965 hPa (28.48 inches).[7]

New York[edit]

Cyclonic flow and cold air around the backside of this system led to significant Lake effect snows for areas downwind of the Great Lakes. [8]


Burlington set a daily snow record on February 2 when 6.5 inches fell.[9]

Canada effects[edit]

Significant damage occurred in southern New Brunswick, especially to the city of Saint John. Southwest Nova Scotia and southern New Brunswick experienced coastal flooding of up to 1.6 meters (5 feet 3 inches) deep causing extensive damage to wharves, coastal buildings, boats and vessels. Power and communications lines were also knocked out. The tides along the coast were increased due to the convergence of anomalistic, synodical, and tropical monthly tidal cycles peaking simultaneously (known as Saros); a once in 18-year event.[10] Damage was estimated in the tens of millions of dollars.[11] Offshore New Brunswick, 12-m (39 ft) waves with swells of 10 metres (33 ft) were reported in the high seas.[12] The lighthouse at Fish Fluke Point was wrecked and subsequently abandoned.[13] The aftermath of this storm was worsened by a severe cold snap that followed the day after.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U. S. Weather Bureau. Daily Weather Maps: February 2-8, 1976. Retrieved on 2006-11-28.
  2. ^ National Weather Service. Daily Weather Maps: January 26 February 1, 1976. Retrieved on 2006-11-28.
  3. ^ National Weather Service. Daily Weather Maps: February 2-8, 1976. Retrieved on 2006-11-28.
  4. ^ Oxford Networks. THURSDAY. Retrieved on 2006-11-29.
  5. ^ Maine State Climate Office. THE MAINE CLIMATE: March 2002. Retrieved on 2006-11-29.
  6. ^ Maine State Climate Office. THE MAINE CLIMATE: March 2001. Retrieved on 2006-11-29.
  7. ^ Intellicast. February in the Northeast. Retrieved on 2006-11-29.
  8. ^ The Weather Doctor. Lake-Effect Snow Climatology in the Great Lakes Region. Retrieved on 2006-11-29.
  9. ^ National Weather Service Forecast Office, Burlington, Vermont. Daily Snowfall Records: Burlington. Retrieved on 2006-11-29.
  10. ^ Con Desplanque and David J. Mossman. Storm Tides of the Fundy. Retrieved on 2006-11-28.
  11. ^ Environment Canada. Significant tsunamis and storm surges of the 19th and 20th centuries. Retrieved on 2006-11-29.
  12. ^ The Weather Doctor's Diary. Significant Weather Events: Canada. Retrieved on 2006-11-28.
  13. ^ Grand Manan Island website. Grand Manan Trails Annual Newsletter #2, November 1994. Retrieved on 2006-11-28.