BOWDOINHAM — Ice breaking operations are underway Wednesday morning in central Maine as two 65-foot U.S. Coast Guard ice breakers work their way up the Kennebec River.

The cutters Tackle and Bridle have encountered thick ice and slush in Merrymeeting Bay. Each vessel is taking turns, getting what amounts to a running start, smashing through the ice and slush to clear a path further up river.

Leah Chasteen, the officer in charge aboard the “Tackle,” said there was water flowing when the vessels came up this way Tuesday.

Normally ice breaking operations on the Kennebec don’t happen until the spring, but the Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency requested the Coast Guard’s help to break out the river to help stop the ice jam in Farmingdale.

Chasteen has told everyone on board to “brace for shock” a few times as the vessel approached the ice. There is a loud rumbling and the vessel jolts as it hits the ice, raises above it and smashes through it.

The vessels are expected to reach the bridge in Richmond in the next hour.

This story will be updated.

US Coast Guard cutter Bridle breaks ice in Kennebec River just south of Chop Point in Woolwich on Wednesday. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)

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