BANGOR, Maine — There wasn’t any flooding, but there was a flood of people along the waterfront watching the show as two U.S. Coast Guard ice cutters tore through the frozen Penobscot River.
“It’s like the Folk Festival,” one woman said as she arrived with Saturday’s noon high tide to find people with cameras lining the banks of the river.
“We just wanted to see the ice breakers,” Orrington resident Chuck Wood said standing by his truck, with wife, Nancy, and 12-year-old granddaughter, Rebecca, watching from the warmth of the vehicle. “I think it’s kind of neat.”
The show was provided by two 65-foot ice breaking cutters, the Tackle from Rockland and the Bridle from Southwest Harbor, which took turns crashing into the thick ice to break a path to the ice-jammed Kenduskeag Stream.
“The city of Bangor requested some ice breaking assistance, and we felt working in tandem with the Tackle and Bridle would improve the efforts,” said Command Duty Officer Kenneth Stuart of Coast Guard Sector Northern New England in Portland.
The show started just before noon, which is when the tide was high in the Bangor area, so the broken ice would head downriver with the outgoing tide, he said.
The city shut down Kenduskeag Stream parking areas and certain roads downtown on Thursday morning and extended the road and parking lot closures on Friday, because of fears ice jams would cause flooding. The areas remained blocked on Saturday until 4 p.m.
“Once the Penobscot opens up, this will be fine. The ice will have a place to go,” Assistant Fire Chief Darrell Cyr said shortly after noon as he checked on the Kenduskeag Stream’s water level. “There is no place for the ice to go right now.”
Huge chunks of ice filled the stream’s downtown canals stretching all the way to the river.
With the Kenduskeag Stream and others in the state filled with ice jams and above freezing weather on Saturday, the National Weather Service in Maine issued a flash flood warning that extends into Saturday night.
“Snowmelt will continue to run off into waterways due to the mild temperatures today. This may cause additional ice jams and the potential for ice jam flooding,” the warning states.
The Woods of Orrington came to Bangor for breakfast and stopped by the waterfront afterward to watch the ice cutters at work.
“You can’t see it from my house,” Chuck Wood joked.
Mary Ginn of Bangor was shooting video of the cutters making their way north. She said earlier in the day she was visiting her mother, Ada Koch, in Searsport, who asked her if she had seen the icebreakers on the river.
“I figured I would come down and get video to show her,” Ginn said.
Eric Rutherford was driving by with his 8-year-old daughter, Emily, and decided to take a short detour.
“We were driving by and saw it from the road and thought we’d come down and check it out,” he said.
“I think it’s really cool,” Emily Rutherford said.