Warmer weather threatens river ice jams - abc27 WHTM

Warmer weather threatens river ice jams

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As far as the eye could see, the Susquehanna River looked like heaven on earth.

Frozen chunks of ice formed a cloud-like blanket.

Ashok Thirumaeukkaras and his buddy stopped by City Island after lunch to take photos of the frosty river.

"This is, like amazing," he said.

The dream-like portrait could cause nightmares for low-lying areas. On Thursday, the National Weather Service issued a flood watch for Dauphin County. Officials explained ice jams could occur on the Swatara Creek near Middletown.

Despite the higher risks being south of Harrisburg, Fire Chief Brian Enterline is closely paying attention to river levels.

"We will monitor it for any ice jams that may happen south of the city," he said.

According to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission's gauge in Shipoke, the Susquehanna was at 11.5 feet Thursday, well short of its flood stage of 17 feet. Forecasters expect the river to reach 13 feet, but the unknown variable remains a combination of weather events over the weekend.

Abc27's weather team forecasts that temperatures will peak above 50 degrees on Saturday with a high probability for rain. Officials said melting ice, rain and ice jams creating natural dams could boost the river levels.

Many remember in January 1996 when an ice jam tore away a portion of the Walnut Street Bridge. The western span of the bridge is still missing, and several trees on City Island still have bare trunks.

While authorities do not believe 2014 will see a situation as severe, Enterline does warn people of the perennial danger of thin ice.

"We don't want anybody out walking on the ice," he said. "Once you fall through the ice, we will not be able to find you."

Enterline said fire crews are prepared to respond if necessary, but until something happens they wait and watch like everyone else.

"It's Mother Nature," he said. "Mother Nature is dictating where we're at right now, so we just work with her the best we can."


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