Ice jams pose threats as weather warms up

Feb 20, 2014

Most of central and northern New York will see a break from the bitterly cold temperatures that have gripped the region for weeks. But with those warmer temperatures comes the possibility of ice jams and flooding.

Ice jams affected parts of the region last month, closing down portions of I-81 and making travel dangerous and difficult. That could happen again later this week, as temperatures are expected to rise.

In the Mohawk Valley, Jim Picolla, with the Department of Transportation, says workers are doing their best to keep an eye on rivers known to flood, like Sauquoit Creek in Whitesboro, and are taking precautions to prevent flooding from occurring.

Really there's not too much we can do, again with the freezing temperatures and the snow that's out there," Picolla said. "But what we do is we monitor it, particularly the ones that give us some problems. And that's what our guys will be doing. We'll have crews ready as we see stuff building up, we'll take precaution to start trying to break that ice jam up."

He adds that the warm temperatures will give way to colder temperatures at night, which he says should slow down some of the melting.

"When you have a large amount of snowfall and ice buildup, there's only so much you can do when they're in a flood plan area," Picolla said. "Like I said, our crews, along with the local municipalities, you work together and you try to prevent these things from happening. But Mother Nature definitely plays a big part in helping us out if she can do it gradually."

When river ice breaks up and floats down stream during the spring, it can get caught up on still frozen ice or under bridges, causing flooding and other damage. They can also occur on lakes, when wind blown ice piles up on the shoreline.

Temperatures throughout central and northern New York are expected to rise into the 40s through Saturday, and overnight Thursday will remain above freezing.