1200 AM EST FRI FEB 02 2001


 While few people likely remember the prognostication of the groundhog
 25 years ago today, many residents along the Maine coast and in the
 inland city of Bangor, still remember what was to be a most unusual
 Groundhog Day, 25 years ago today, February 2, 1976.

 The weather pattern was very stormy. Low pressure had developed off
 the mid-Atlantic coast overnight and had moved rapidly northeastward to
 extreme southwestern Maine by early in the morning. As the storm moved
 north-northeastward, it intensified rapidly causing very strong
 southerly winds to develop along the mid- and downeast-coast of Maine.
 These strong winds continued during the morning hours as the storm
 tracked northward through western Maine. The strong southerly winds
 caused ocean water to begin to pile up along the coast of Maine from
 Brunswick to Eastport, and sent a historic storm surge up the Penobscot
 River and into the city of Bangor.

 For residents in the city of Bangor, while the day started out stormy
 with high winds and heavy rain, nobody had any idea of the dramatic
 events that were about to unfold. Within hours the city would be hit
 hard by the highly unusual storm surge as it moved rapidly up the
 Penobscot River. Due to the funneling effects of the Penobscot River,
 the surge grew as it approached the unsuspecting city of Bangor.

 The flood waters rose rapidly as they reached downtown Bangor shortly
 after 11 am, reportedly flooding sections of the downtown area to a
 depth of 12 feet within 15 minutes. With water rising at a rate of
 about 10 inches per minute, residents could do little to escape the
 frigid waters. Many residents became trapped in their cars and in
 buildings. Several workers that saw the rapidly rising water tried to
 rescue their vehicles from parking lots in the area, only to become
 trapped as their cars began to float. Eventually, the cars began to
 sink and the occupants were forced to climb onto rooftops to await
 help. In one case, a lady was forced to hop from car-rooftop to
 rooftop as successive cars sunk in the icy-cold waters. Many people
 watched as, within 30 minutes, about 200 cars fell victim to the surge
 and disappeared into the rising flood waters. Fortunately, thanks the
 heroic actions of some of the residents in the area, no one died in the
 storm. However, many of the cars submerged in the flood waters were
 catastrophically damaged. The surge also flooded the basements and
 lower floors of numerous buildings in the area, damaging bank vaults,
 electrical equipment and causing several fires.

 Along the Maine coast, a storm surge of 3 to 5 feet combined with high
 winds and large waves to cause numerous problems. In Southwest Harbor,
 the Coast Guard recorded a wind of 115 miles per hour during the
 morning. High winds caused considerable damage to structures along the
 downeast coast; some roofs were torn from buildings. In addition to
 the surge, wind-driven waves estimated at 14 feet high damaged
 structures along the coast, some of which slid into the ocean before
 being ripped apart by the pounding surf.

 In Searsport, a large Japanese freighter that was anchored offshore
 awaiting a load of french fries, dragged its anchor and washed aground.
 The freighter spent weeks awaiting a sufficiently high tide before it
 could be freed to return to the ocean.

 The Bangor flood of February 2, 1976 was the result of several factors
 which happened to coincide on that date. First, the sun, moon, and
 earth were generally in alignment, causing a very high astronomical
 tide. Second, the extremely intense low pressure center that tracked
 west of the Penobscot River caused the very strong southerly winds to
 develop over the Penobscot Bay. Third, the wind driven storm surge
 occurred near the time of high tide. And fourth, the funneling effects
 of the Penobscot Bay and River allowed the surge to move up the river
 and grow as it headed toward the city of Bangor. In addition, the
 heavy rain which accompanied the storm also likely contributed to the
 flood water.

 While there is nothing that could prevent this extremely rare event
 from happening again, much more is known about storm surges than was
 known 25 years ago. In fact, National Weather Service forecasters now
 have access to storm surge models to help predict the extent of
 flooding from coastal storms. In addition, although the surge 25 years
 ago was not caused by a hurricane, the National Weather Services
 Hurricane Storm Surge Model is now used to map areas flooded by storm
 surges caused by hurricanes.

 Where along the Maine coast do these hurricane storm surge models show
 the greatest threat of surges to be? In case you couldn't guess, in
 and around the inland city of Bangor!