2017-03-15 / Front Page

Advisory commission reports improved drought conditions

By Dee Menear Irregular Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — The State’s River Flow Advisory Commission met March 9 to discuss ice conditions across the state, flood risks and the ongoing drought.

“It’s mostly encouraging news today,” said Maine Emergency Management Agency Director Bruce Fitzgerald. “There are only a couple of ice jams, which we will be watching closely, but we have no major concerns for flooding.”

The commission noted the Carrabassett and Sandy rivers experienced ice jams during a late February thaw. According to a press release from MEMA, those rivers will continue to be monitored for problems.

The drought has improved significantly during the winter, with only York County remaining in severe to moderate drought and 12 counties, at least in part, considered abnormally dry.

The National Integrated Drought Information System issued a drought report March 7 that shows there are no drought conditions in Somerset County and northern Franklin and Oxford counties. Southern Franklin and Oxford counties, along with most southern and coastal areas are listed as having abnormally dry conditions.

“We received more snow than normal which may have recharged some groundwater, which is what we were hoping would happen,” said Fitzgerald.

Higher than normal levels of precipitation combined with a slow, gradual melt would be ideal conditions for eliminating the drought, according to a U.S. Geological Survey representative.

“Stream flow levels for February were normal to high,” said Nicholas Stasulis, Data Section Chief, U.S. Geological Survey. “As far as groundwater, we still have some wells that are low to very low for the month of February.”

With the recent warm temperatures combined with periods of cold temperatures, the public is urged to use extreme caution before going onto the ice. Many rivers were reported to have poor ice conditions, meaning there was a high amount of snow and slush in the ice, which is not as solid as black ice. Many rivers that do still contain ice have open areas.

The River Flow Advisory Commission is not expected to meet again unless conditions warrant. The report will be available online at www.maine.gov/mema or can be obtained from MEMA by calling 624-4400.

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