The persistent ice jams that have been causing problems for the Haddam-East Haddam area may soon be broken up, though flooding problems were expected to continue into Wednesday because of the ice and the heavy rain on Tuesday.
Three U.S. Coast Guard ice cutters plowing their way north through the ice jam reached the East Haddam swing bridge on Tuesday afternoon, a few days behind schedule. It is unclear when their work will be complete, but the jams have caused flooding and some damage to buildings near the river since the long freeze earlier this month.
Coast Guard officials confirmed about 1 p.m. that the ships had arrived at the bridge, which swung open not long after their arrival to let them through. It remained open, and impassable to traffic, for a time Tuesday.
Haddam First Selectwoman Lizz Milardo last week called for a state of emergency in her town town because of the ice jams in the river.
“It has now been found that local resources are unable to cope with the effects of said emergency,” the declaration said.
Milardo was on the shore near the bridge Tuesday to welcome the ships, the Bollard, the Hawser and the Pendant.
The ships had been expected to reach the area over the weekend, prompting the state Department of Transportation to warn residents that the swing bridge would be opened to let them do their work.
But the ships fell behind that schedule. Coast Guard officials said that the Bollard, a 65-foot small harbor tug, had been taken out of commission briefly and docked in Essex for mechanical repairs.
Earlier in the day, the Coast Guard said the ships were in the Chester area breaking ice near Selden Neck State Park. Two of the three ships had been working through much of last week to crush the jams.
The heavy rain, coupled with the jams, presented new problems on Tuesday. The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for a swath of land adjacent to the Connecticut River from Haddam and points south. It said “expect continued ice jam flooding into at least Wednesday. Small fluctuations in water levels are possible due to the ice jams.”
Water levels in the area had crested over the 7-foot mark, causing minor flooding.
Reviewing satellite images, forecasters for the weather service said the jam persisted in the lower Connecticut river through Haddam and areas to the south.