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Kennebec River Ice Monitoring

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    The web cam on the Kennebec River at Augusta serves as a continuous visual representation of the status of the river in the most flood prone river reach in Maine. In conjunction with the real-time stage gage at the Calumet Bridge at Old Fort Western (station 01049320), the web cam both confirms the stage being reported from the gage, as well as provides a unique real-time view of the ice processes in the river.

    Map of Kennebec River Flood Warning System
    Map showing locations of Kennebec River Flood Warning System stations

    The Calumet Bridge at Old Fort Western is the lower bridge visible in the background of the web cam image. The National Weather Service has set the flood stage for the Kennebec River in Augusta at 13 feet, which is approximately when the river enters the parking area as seen on the left side of the web cam image. Although long term records at Augusta are not available, this stage is equalled or exceeded on an annual basis, and often several times a year. At approximately a 2-5 year recurrence interval, the buildings farther to the left in the web cam image are flooded (downtown Augusta) . The peak stage of record is 34.1 ft, recorded on April 2, 1987. On the web cam image, this stage is at the low steel of the Calumet Bridge at Old Fort Western and approximately 15 feet deep in the buildings on the left. Occasionally large freeze-up ice jams occur in this reach of the river.

    Although several historic ice jam floods have occurred in the lower Kennebec River basin, these are the first known freeze up jams in the Augusta area, and have caused increased awareness of the potential for spring ice-jam flooding. Both the web cam and the stage gages in Augusta are part of a multi-agency State-Federal cooperative effort to mitigate the effects of possible flooding. Other parts of the effort include real-time ice-out sensors installed by the Corps of Engineers-CRREL and ice monitoring training for local emergency management officials sponsored by the Maine Emergency Management Agency.

    Previous web camera image
    Explanation of web cam image

    Historical floods on Kennebec:

    Historically, the occurrence of ice jams on the lower Kennebec River, near Swan Island, have increased the magnitude and severity of spring flooding on the river, including in the towns of Hallowell and Gardiner, Maine (down river of Augusta, Maine). As a result, peak stages can be caused by the combination of river ice and moderate spring flows. For example the 1987 flood flow was larger than the 1936 flow but the 1936 flood height was higher than the 1987 height.

    1. March 14, 1936, ice jams at Swan Island and Browns Island
    2. April 2, 1987, no ice jams
    3. March 2, 1896, ice jam at Swan Island and at other points above Swan Island
    4. February 20, 1870
    5. March 26, 1826, ice jams at Browns Island and Swan Island
    Historic flood height markings
    Kennebec River at Hallowell (heights marked at 136 Water St.)

    Five largest historic peak flows measured at the Waterville gage on the lower Kennebec River

    1987 194,000*
    1902 157,000
    1936 154,000
    1923 135,000
    1896 113,000
    * Estimated

    U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
    Last modified: Friday, 16-Dec-2016 14:13:58 EST
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