Monitoring Area Waterways For Ice Jams - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Monitoring Area Waterways For Ice Jams

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     A lot of melting over the last few days has officials for several agencies keeping a close eye on area rivers and streams. One concern is flooding, which can impact some homes, farmland, and roads. There's also a pretty great potential for ice jams according to the National Weather Service. That's because the winter was so cold the ice depths got to about two feet in a lot of places.

     It's starting to break up and move on waterways like the Maquoketa River, the Wapsipinicon, and Iowa River. Ice jams can lead to rapid changes of water levels and it takes coordination to keep close tabs on conditions throughout the area. 

     "If there's an ice jam that can really locally raise the river level significantly and that cause even worse flooding," said NWS Hydrologist Maren Stoflet.

     Stoflet says the ice on many waterways was a lot thicker than any given winter so there's a potential for more problems. That's where the coordination with several different agencies really comes into play. The NWS works closely with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and U.S. Geological Survey crews which operate the river gauges.

     "Those agencies have been out and about today even taking pictures of the conditions on the river and maintaining those gauges because when the temps are cold or we have ice impacts that can affect the gauges," added Stoflet.

     Hydrologists will monitor for sudden spikes in river levels to indicate an ice jam but Stoflet says having those eyes in the field is also important.  "It's sometimes tough to see ice jams because we can't see all the parts of any river."

      Images like several the NWS received Tuesday of an ice break up on the Iowa River paint a clear picture of conditions there. Even information from those living near a waterway may be taken into consideration when hydrologists run river models and come up with a forecast so they can let those near potential flood areas know what to expect.

     Hydrologists say frost depth is still a concern as it will still take time to work its way out of the ground. Any rainfall before the ground is completely thawed will run off pretty quickly.


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