In the aftermath of last week’s storm, most of us have been focused on what those zany winds have done on land. Sixty mile per hour gusts produced roaring sounds in the night, flinging carefully carved pumpkins out onto the street, tearing up trees from their roots, and sending their branches careening into power lines.

As the sun set, our houses went dark – candles were lit, fires were started, and we tucked in for the night, hoping to wake to more than natural light in the morning.

But, where did the storm come from?

As it so often does in Maine, it came from the sea. At this time of year, we have hurricanes and tropical storms on our minds and there have been a record number causing enormous damage this year. This time, it was Tropical Storm Philippe that provided some of the energy and moisture fueling our most recent storm.

As the low-pressure system traveled up the coast, it continued to drop in pressure – in fact, it dropped so much so quickly that – BOOM! The storm underwent what is called bombogenesis – the creation of a weather bomb from a sudden severe drop in pressure. This is what created the wild winds we experienced.

And there you have the extent of my understanding of meteorology.

Turning to things I know a little more about, I wondered what impacts the winds had on the water and on the waterfront. As you may have noticed during the crisp, clear nights after the storm, the moon was about two-thirds full. This was a good thing, as the tides were not unusually high when the winds arrived. Higher tides would have meant higher waves, causing more impact to the shoreline and any shoreside structures.

Fortunately, many people had recently pulled out their docks, ramps and boats, partly because it’s just that time of year and partly in preparation for the storm.
But what about the fishing boats?

Due to accurate weather predictions, most did not go out fishing and that was a good thing as seas were reportedly up to 14 feet high outside of Portland. Instead, fishermen carefully tied up and secured their gear and waited.

On Wednesday morning, with kids finally back at school after two “wind days” at home, I checked the report from the weather station at the Brunswick High School, which we put out as part of the students’ aquaculture project on Maquoit Bay.

Winds were out of the southeast at 1 mph and the pressure was rising slowly – quite calm. But, they weren’t done brewing at sea. The National Weather Service’s marine forecast issued a small craft warning, urging boats to stay off the water through Thursday evening when seas were predicted to be down to just a couple of feet high and it would be safe to go out on the water.

Those boats have lost several good fishing days in the waning fall. And, the fishing isn’t likely to be great until the wind-stirred waters settle down a bit.
The stirring up of the water is less of an issue in deeper offshore waters, but up in the shallows, the water is a strange color. Think of making an intertidal smoothie of mud, eelgrass and water and that’s close to what you’d see.

Add to that all the water, dirt and silt from the land that ran off along the shores as a result of the storm’s rain and you can imagine it isn’t pretty. So, it’s no surprise that this isn’t the best time to go clamming.

Accordingly, the Maine Department of Marine Resources has issued an “emergency flood closure” along much of the coast, closing it to shellfish harvest. This, unfortunately, comes on the heels of the recent widespread red tide closure that kept harvesters off the flats and shellfish off the menu in the Midcoast area.
Then, there are the aquaculture operations like the floating oyster farms. Many of these have been damaged, with valuable juvenile oysters strewn about out of their cages. While they will be beneficial for the surrounding environment, helping to clean up the silty water, owners have lost part of their investment.

So, as we pick up sticks along our sidewalks, repair broken door latches and get our houses back in order, let us not forget the power of the seas to impact even those of us who live miles from the coast, let alone those whose lives depend on those very waters.