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MAINE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY
So Far, So Good, But Flood Potential Still Elevated
March 24, 2005
AUGUSTA, MAINE — Although stream flows and reservoir storages are largely in the normal range for the time of year, the potential for spring flooding in Maine is elevated due to high water content in the snowpack in northern and western Maine. The River Flow Advisory Commission, meeting today in Augusta, reviewed information on snow pack, stream flows, reservoir storages, ice conditions and weather forecasts.
“We have had the best possible weather for melting snow gradually in southern Maine, said Art Cleaves, Director of Maine Emergency Management Agency and co-chair of the Commission. “However, we learned today that the water content in the snowpack, especially in northern and western Maine, which increased due to the recent snow storms, has not decreased substantially in the past week even with our sunny days and cool nights. The snow pack has simply gotten more saturated.”
The water content of the snowpack is significantly above normal from northern Maine, down through the entire western half of the state, including headwaters of most major rivers. Statewide, water content levels from 7 to over 12 inches were recorded in this week’s snow survey.
What the sunny days have accomplished, Cleaves said, is to accelerate the natural erosion of river ice in southern and central Maine. While all rivers are not yet ice free, the ice cover is weakening and shrinking. This reduces the risk of ice jams in central and southern Maine. The US Coast Guard has completed ice-breaking operations in the lower Kennebec River. The Kennebec is now reportedly open from Sidney south.
In northern Maine, however, rivers are still frozen solid and covered with snow. The Commission noted that we are still several weeks away from seeing rivers in Aroostook and northern Penobscot Counties open up.
“About the first of April, we will finally be into spring run-off in the southern half of the state, though almost two weeks behind schedule. People will see rivers and streams rise, as part of this normal process.“ said said Bob Lent, District Chief of the USGS and Commission co-chair. “In Maine, we do not normally see flooding from snowmelt alone, But everyone who lives or works in a flood-prone area should pay close attention to news broadcasts and weather forecasts for the next several weeks.”
The National Weather Service expects cool weather culminating in a mixed precipitation weather event at the beginning of next week, and a warming trend and more active weather pattern thereafter. That means that the stage would be set for a sudden warm-up coupled with warm rain that could precipitate flooding. “By no means should we presume that because snow banks are shrinking here in Augusta, and the ice is clearing out of southern rivers, that the risk of spring flooding is over,” Cleaves said. “We are carrying a significant snowpack, with water content well above normal for this time of year. The risk of flooding is still high. And in northern Maine, there is still plenty of ice.”
Cleaves also noted 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.”
The River Flow Advisory Commission meets annually in late winter to share information, examine potential for spring flooding and to renew operational protocols. The Commission is composed of state, federal and industry representatives. The reports of the March 3 and 24th meetings are available on the Internet at http://www.maine.gov/rfac The Commission did not set a date for a followup meeting, but members will continue to monitor conditions closely and share information, and will come together if conditions warrant.
Last update: 07/20/10
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