Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ice Jam

A week or so ago I read in the newspaper that Augusta and Hallowell experienced some flooding along the river. It is not uncommon for the streets along the waterfront to flood in the spring, but what apparently caused the flooding last week was a mile-and-a-half-long ice jam, and the ice was supposedly still piling up behind it. It only took seven minutes for the waterfront in Augusta to flood. One man reported that he parked his car along the waterfront, walked up to Water Street to shop, and when he came back to his car 15 minutes later, the parking lot was completely flooded. At that point, the river was 17 feet above normal.

We'd had quite a bit of rain right before that, which I suppose must have been part of the January thaw. All the rain caused the water level in the Kennebec to rise, broke up the layer of ice on the river, and it all started flowing downstream. When the water started to recede, the ice started jamming up. According to the Maine Emergency Management Agency, the ice was 10-15 feet thick in some places. That would make for some pretty big chunks of ice, wouldn't it?

Yesterday we went out to get a few photos of the ice jam, but we didn't stay out too long because it was awfully cold. I took this picture from the Gardiner-Randolph bridge, and you can see where the ice jam starts.

The Coast Guard cutters usually come up the river in the spring to break up the ice, but they can't get past the bridge, so there's nothing they can do to break up the jam. All they can do for now is to keep the ice south of the bridge broken up to allow the ice to continue flowing, once it breaks up north of the bridge. The fear now is that the ice will break up, flow down past the bridge, jam up again, and flood Gardiner.

It's really quite an unusual sight. The river is normally smooth when it's covered with ice, and the surface is now covered with these big chunks of ice. Some of the ice is so thick it's actually blue in this photo. One old timer said that in 30 years he'd never seen ice chunks like this coming down the river.

If you're interested, there's an incredible You Tube video of the river here and another here.

1 comment:

Shari said...

What an amazing thing to have happened - nature continues to surprise at every turn... good thing you have a lovely indoor activity in your hexagons!