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Spring Flood Potential Elevated Due to Near-Record Snowfall
March 6, 2008
AUGUSTA, MAINE — This winter’s near-record snowfall has created a flood potential that is above normal, according to Maine’s River Flow Advisory Commission. The Commission, meeting today in Augusta, reviewed information on snow pack, stream flows, reservoir storages, ice conditions and weather forecasts.
Areas of the headwaters of Maine’s major rivers have 8 to 11 inches of water contained in the snowpack, which is over four feet deep in some northern areas. Statewide water content readings from this week’s snow survey are some of the highest since 1969, the “snow season” of record, and in some locations higher than the record.
“Flooding in Maine’s major rivers does not generally occur from melting snow alone,” said Bob Lent, District Chief, US Geological Survey and co-chairman of the Maine Riverflow Advisory Commission, following the Commission’s meeting today in Augusta. However, we currently have snow conditions well above historical levels for the time of year. That elevates the risk of flooding if we have a sudden warm-up, or significant rain in the headwaters of our major rivers.”
Currently, the snowpack can absorb some amount of rainfall. In addition, short-term forecasts are for slightly below normal temperature and precipitation, which will support a gradual lessening of the snowpack. Therefore, problems on the major rivers are not anticipated in the short term.
However, The National Weather Service has some concern about a weather system that could bring rain to southern Maine this weekend and potentially cause some street and small stream flooding. NWS forecasters stress the importance of staying tuned to weather information and warnings this weekend and throughout the spring.
Preparedness is the key to minimizing the impact of flooding or of any emergency, according to Rob McAleer, Director of the Maine Emergency Management Agency, and co-chair of the Commission. Families, schools, communities and businesses should review their plans for flooding emergencies, as well as their flood insurance coverage.
“Spring conditions can change rapidly,” said McAleer. “Stay aware of National Weather Service forecasts as the spring progresses. Talk to local officials and your County Emergency Management Agency about flood preparedness in your community, and how to build an emergency plan for your family, business or school. And it is most important to check your flood insurance coverage if you live or have a business in a flood-prone area. Most home and business owner’s policies do not cover flood damages.”
Commission members will stay in close communication throughout the spring season, and will meet again if conditions warrant. Snow surveys will be conducted each week from now until the snow cover is gone.
“We are hoping for seasonably warm days and cool nights as we go through the next several weeks,” said McAleer. “That is the best-case scenario to reduce the snowpack gradually.”
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 with an interest in hydrologic issues. The full report of the March 6 meeting is available on the Internet at http://www.maine.gov/rfac