People survey the ice jam Monday on the Kennebec River in Augusta.

AUGUSTA — An ice jam slowing the flow of the Kennebec River through Augusta caused it to rise Sunday to just shy of flood stage, prompting concerned officials to keep a close watch on the waterway.

Water levels peaked at 11.84 feet Sunday evening, just shy of the 12-foot minor flooding stage, and hovered at about 10.5 feet for most of Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

While the ice jam had not caused flooding in Augusta, officials Monday were continuing to monitor the river and the ice jam, which they might have to do for the foreseeable future — or until the jam melts.

“Right now, water is flowing through it,” Eric Schwibs, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said of the ice jam the federal agency is monitoring. “But one of the characteristics of an ice jam is it can change very quickly. At this point we’re just monitoring it.”

Augusta police blocked off part of the Front Street parking lot downtown, where Monday afternoon large ice chunks in the river appeared to be at nearly the same height as the parking lot.

Sean Goodwin, emergency management director for Kennebec County, agreed with Schwibs that ice jams can change rapidly, especially with tidal waters — such as those in the Kennebec — because the tide going in and out can break up the ice.


When the ice goes up with the tide and then comes back down, it can settle in new locations and further restrict the flow of water.

“It’s not below action stage and there’s still an ice jam,” Goodwin said of Monday’s water levels being above 10 feet, the height at which authorities deem some action is needed to prepare for possible flooding. “Enough so it’s causing problems. It’s retarding the flow of water, that’s the issue. Augusta police, Augusta fire and ourselves are monitoring it.”

High tide was expected just before midnight Monday, with the next high tide after that shortly before noon Tuesday.

“High tide tends to back up the water a bit, which is why (the Kennebec River) went up over 11 feet (Sunday) night,” Schwibs said Monday. “Today, it has been behaving itself, staying below flood level.”

The jam appears to extend from between the Cushnoc Crossing and Calumet bridges to just below Memorial Bridge, near the Kennebec Arsenal, in Augusta.

Above Cushnoc Crossing, also known as the third bridge, there was open water Monday afternoon.

Goodwin said the water flow was normal just downriver of Augusta.

“We’ve talked to the towns,” he said. “They’re aware of it. Everyone is pretty much on top of it,” including officials in the riverside cities of Hallowell and Gardiner.

If the ice jam sticks around, Goodwin added, “we’ll watch it, in our office, for the rest of winter.”

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