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MEMA Home > Programs> Communication> News > Flood Potential Normal, Ice Jam Potential Elevated

Flood Potential Normal, Ice Jam Potential Elevated


March 4, 2004


AUGUSTA, MAINE — Although hydrologic conditions are largely in the normal range for the time of year, the potential for flooding from ice jams is elevated, due to the presence of strong “black ice” in Maine’s rivers. The River Flow Advisory Commission, meeting today in Augusta, reviewed information on snow pack, stream flows, reservoir storages, ice conditions and weather forecasts.

Snow pack across the state is in the normal to slightly below normal range for the time of year. Snow measurements look not only at the depth but also the water content of the snow. Flows in Maine’s rivers and streams are normal to below normal. Ground water levels are normal, to slightly above normal. Short-term weather forecasts show average temperatures and no major storms in the next 6 to 10 days.

“All of this means that it is a normal spring in Maine.” said Art Cleaves, Director of Maine Emergency Management Agency and co-chair of the Commission. “But in Maine there is nothing ‘normal’ about the weather and we must be aware of flood risks every spring.”

Officials are hoping for slowly warming days, cool nights and no heavy rainstorms. Those conditions would melt the snowpack and river ice gradually, and avert major flooding. The biggest concern is the large amount of solid ice in many rivers.

“Ice jam flooding cannot be predicted,” Cleaves said. “Emergency managers must be on alert to survey potential ice problems in their areas.” A large ice jam is in place in the St. John River at Allagash. After the Allagash Flood in 1991, many homes were moved up out of the flood plain, and the replacement bridges were significantly elevated. Still, concern in that region remains high.

Cleaves also notes Mainers should check on their insurance coverage. “Homeowners’, business owners’ and renters’ policies do not cover flood damage. Flood insurance must be purchased separately. There is a 30-day waiting period before a purchased flood insurance policy goes into effect.“

“Flooding in Maine can occur at any time when too much rain falls in the wrong places,” said Bob Lent, District Chief of the USGS and the other Commission co-chair. “In the spring we have 4 additional risk factors: the snowpack, frozen ground, dormant vegetation, and river ice. From now until at least mid-April we will be monitoring all these factors and watching weather forecasts closely.”

The US Coast Guard will begin ice-breaking operations in the lower Kennebec River next week, and expects to reach Gardiner between the 15th and the 17th of March.

The River Flow Advisory Commission meets annually in late winter to share information, examine potential for spring flooding and to renew operational protocols. It is co-chaired by the Director of the Maine Emergency Management Agency and the District Chief of the USGS. The Commission is composed of state, federal and industry representatives with an interest in hydrologic issues. The full report of the March 4 meeting is available on the Internet at



Last update: 07/20/10