PORTLAND — A powerful storm that’s churning up the ocean has forced the Coast Guard to delay ice-breaking operations in Maine.

The Coast Guard said the annual spring operation on the Kennebec River was postponed from Wednesday until Thursday because of the storm that’s packing hurricane-force winds off the coast.

The operation, which is something of a springtime ritual, aims to break up winter ice in the main channel of the Kennebec River from Merrymeeting Bay to the town of Gardiner.

Four ice-breaking tugs will cut through the ice over several days. The Coast Guard says clearing the thick ice gives the water a direct path to the ocean.