AUGUSTA —The River Flow Advisory Commission determined Thursday there’s a below normal chance for flooding in the Kennebec valley and central and southern Maine and normal flood potential in the northern part of the state.

Robert Lent, associate director for hydrologic surveillance programs for the U.S. Geological Survey, said warmer weather and below-normal snowfall are some of the factors leading to a lower flood potential.

According to the National Weather Service, 2015 was the warmest year on record globally in part because of a strong El Nino, and Maine registered its 24th-warmest year on record.

During the commission’s annual meeting, Maureen Hastings in Caribou said Augusta received nearly 100 inches of snow throughout the 2014-15 season; through the end of February, this season’s total is just 28.3 inches.

Senior meteorologist John Cannon said little weather activity is forecast over the next several weeks and the cold air in the region overnight and Friday will be the last cold air for quite a while. Cannon also said the Gulf of Maine’s water temperature is either at or near record warmth for this time of year.

Cannon and Gregory Stewart, data section chief for the geological survey in Augusta, cautioned people that despite warm weather, the water temperature is still just slightly above freezing, creating a potentially deadly hazard for those out on the water.

“It’s going to feel very inviting, but if the sea breeze kicks up and the waves increase and it causes you to flip over, you’re in a lot of trouble,” Cannon said. “We’ve already heard about cold-water rescues because people are already starting to go out in canoes and (other watercraft).”

Stewart said even though the commission is forecasting a below-normal chance of flooding, the abnormal weather patterns mean the chance of flooding still exists. Rainfall is the driving force of flooding in Maine, Stewart said.

“Your chance of having that larger flood is less likely because you don’t have (extreme) conditions,” Stewart said. “That doesn’t mean we couldn’t have an above-normal rainstorm.”

The warmer conditions also have affected the presence of river ice around the state. Stewart said much of the ice started clearing during December and after rain in January and February.

“Coastal and central Maine have little to no ice, and there’s even below-normal ice in northern Maine,” Stewart said. “Our flood potential is less likely.”

The lack of ice around the state has made the annual ice breakouts for the U.S. Coast Guard considerably easier than in past years. The Coast Guard hasn’t received any breakout requests from mariners this season, compared to 66 requests last year.

Last week, cutters went up the Kennebec River to Gardiner to check for any remaining ice as part of the Kennebec River Spring Breakout, and officials said cutters still are standing by in case they are needed.

The Maine Geological Survey is conducting snow site tests around the state. Last week it visited 170 locations. State geologist Bob Marvinney said southern Maine has no snow and snow depth in the northern part of the state is below normal.

“Everywhere in the state is below normal for water content in the snow pack,” Marvinney said. Statewide, there is about 2 ½ inches of water equivalent in the snow pack; it was more than 6 ½ inches at the same time last year.

“That is great for our flood concerns, but we will have to worry about what it means for groundwater recharge,” Marvinney said. “It’ll depend on how much rain we get in the next month or two.”

Bruce Fitzgerald, the director of the Maine Emergency Management Agency, said everyone is thankful for the mild winter.

“Break out the golf clubs if you haven’t already,” Fitzgerald said with a smile. He said this would probably be the only meeting of the River Flow Advisory Commission this year.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

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Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ