AUGUSTA — Ice breaking will start on the Kennebec River next week, the Coast Guard announced Friday, a day after meteorologists announced that the risk for spring flooding in Maine is above normal.
Three Coast Guard boats will break ice over multiple days starting Wednesday on the stretch of the river between Gardiner and Merrymeeting Bay in Sagadahoc, Lincoln and Cumberland counties. It’s a nearly annual event on the river, but this year it has a bigger significance.
On Thursday, the National Weather Service characterized the state’s risk for spring flooding and ice jams as above normal, saying a deep snow pack is expected in the region as April starts.
Unseasonably cold temperatures have caused ice to form and snow to stay later into the season. One to 3 inches of new snow is expected over much of Maine’s southern half on Saturday.
“It’s the winter that keeps on giving,” said Lynette Miller, spokeswoman for the Maine Emergency Management Agency.
The longer the deep snow pack and thick ice stay intact, experts say, the bigger the risk for flooding on rivers in coastal and southern sections of the state as temperatures rise.
Certain spots along the Kennebec River are particularly prone to flooding.
The worst occurrence in recent years was in 2010, when an ice jam flooded low-lying parts of Augusta and Hallowell, sending water into streets, lots and basements.
In February, the U.S. Geological Survey found as much as 1.6 feet of ice on the river between Richmond and Dresden. Most of it will still be there when the Coast Guard boats go out.
“There’s a lot of ice in the river this year, and our aim is to give it a clear path to go out to sea,” the Coast Guard said in a prepared statement.
Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 370-7652 or at: