AUGUSTA — Record-breaking warm weather Wednesday across central Maine brought melting of ice and snow, but no new concerns about flooding in the Kennebec River south of Augusta.

“We’re not anticipating any impact on the rivers,” National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Sinsabaugh said Wednesday from his office in Gray.

The one-day warmup was expected to be followed by a return to more seasonable temperature Thursday that will slow the pace of melting and runoff across the region.

“None of the river levels indicate anything to be concerned about,” Maine Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Susan Faloon said.

Even so, officials in communities along the Kennebec River have been monitoring the ice jam between Hallowell and Farmingdale that formed about six weeks ago, when a brief warm-up and heavy rainfall loosened the river ice and sent chunks and slabs of it downstream, where it’s been lodged ever since.

The destructive jam flooded a stretch of downtown Hallowell, stranded cars in the rising water and prompted Augusta officials to close off Front Street in that city to parking until the flooding threat abated.

The ice jam also prompted an unprecedented request to the U.S. Coast Guard to launch an early ice-breaking operation at the end of January, but it was called off at Richmond because the ice was too thick for the ships to break.

Because Wednesday’s warm weather won’t outlast the day, there’s little concern that runoff will raise water levels.

Sinsabaugh said because fog and stratus clouds sat over the capital and midcoast regions well into the afternoon, those areas did not bask in the warmth that points south in Maine and elsewhere in New England did. He said Sanford reached 72 degrees; Portsmouth, New Hampshire reached 74; and Bennington, Vermont, reached 77.

Augusta’s high of 54 degrees on Wednesday broke the record of 52 degrees that was set in 1981, he said.

In some areas, pressure has bowed the ice into ridges; and in others, the water has shoved the chunks into messy piles.

Kennebec County Emergency Management Director Sean Goodwin said the Kennebec River gauges have been showing a more normal flow of the river.

“There’s more movement of open water, which we always like,” Goodwin said Wednesday.

Even with the ice jam, a patch of water just south of it between Chelsea and Farmingdale has remained open, and it appears to be getting larger, he said.

“The river has been staying down, and we’re in pretty good shape,” he said.

Normally, flood monitoring gets into full swing in March, when the seasonal temperature rises and melting snow starts running off into streams and rivers across the region.

That’s the month when many of Kennebec’s serious floods have taken place.

The Kennebec River has experienced — memorably — both open water and ice jam floods within the last 100 years during March.

A little bit more than three decades ago, weather conditions aligned in the Kennebec River watershed at the end of March to produce the largest open-water flood in the state’s history.

In 1936, the ice break-up on the Kennebec in mid-March was accompanied by heavy rain. As the massive ice chunks and slabs flowed downriver, they scoured away everything in their path, including the bridge that crossed the river between Dresden and Richmond, which was twisted and bent by the force of the flow and eventually carried away.

This year, however, a snowpack survey two weeks ago in this area showed that it’s running below average, Sinsabaugh said.

The cold front that’s expected to lower the air temperature will bring with it some showers, but they will amount to only a fraction of an inch of precipitation, and that won’t affect the rivers, either.

Goodwin said a lot of variables are involved in assessing the condition of the river and the ice jam.

“We do believe it’s eroding from the bottom,” he said. “We do know the gauges are not impinged right now, and they are working as they should.”

Goodwin said he plans to be out Thursday morning to check the ice jam and the gauges.”

“There’s a pretty good network of people watching it,” he said. “With that ice jam, it could change in a heartbeat.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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