Historic ice jam — now in pieces — remains a threat

Superior Telegram

Feb. 22–SCHENECTADY — A historic 17-mile ice jam on the Mohawk River has broken into two distinct ice jams that pose a lingering flood threat, officials say.

The situation along the river was stable on Thursday, according to Schenectady County spokesman Joe McQueen.

But with ice still in the river, more flooding could quickly result from a significant warm up like the one that hit the region Wednesday or heavy rainfall or snow, according to Joe Villani, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany.

Flooding occurred in several areas of Schenectady County on Thursday following a period of unseasonably warm temperatures that broke up ice and sent it down the Mohawk from Amsterdam. The sudden flow of ice and water flooded several streets in the Stockade neighborhood, and even forced some residents from their homes.

McQueen said emergency officials were still monitoring the Stockade area, Scotia and the area around Rotterdam Junction, as the ice jams continue to move.

“We’re going back to where we were a couple of days ago — with not knowing what will happen,” McQueen said. “That’s why all of our emergency management teams are communicating with each other up and down the river.”

Lee Boreman, commander of the emergency management unit in the Albany County Sheriff’s Department, said they will continue to fly drones over the river to monitor the ice jams.

A part of the ice jam near Rexford Knolls broke free at around 1:30 a.m., according to John Garver, a geology professor at Union College. That sent ice downstream and over the Vischer Ferry Dam for the first time since the ice jam formed, he said.

That, in turn, allowed water in the Stockade to recede, according to Garver. But ice remained, he said.

The breakup did allow the National Weather Service to reduce a flood warning issued for Schenectady County to a flood advisory on Thursday. The advisory was expected to continue until 1:45 p.m. today.

Some of the ice traveled through the Cohoes Falls and down into the Hudson River. Garver said Albany saw a spike in river water levels by a couple of feet, but no flooding was reported.

Around 4 a.m., though, ice stopped going through the Vischer Ferry Dam. Garver said that caused a fresh ice jam between Rexford Knolls and the Vischer Ferry dam.

Because the water levels receded, there wasn’t enough liquid to force ice over the dam, causing it to jam up there, according to Boreman.

A second jam, measuring about 3 miles long, formed Thursday evening between Lock 8 near Rotterdam Junction and the Stockade in Schenectady. Garver said the latter jam could cause some concern.

It grew overnight after a jam at Lock 9 in Rotterdam Junction broke apart and, by mid-morning, joined the jam already in place at Lock 8.

Water on Thursday was still backing up at that jam. That prompted the closure Thursday morning of Route 5S from the I-890 ramps to Mabie Lane, according to Garver.

A press release from the state Department of Transportation said the water on the road eventually cleared out and the road was reopened.

McQueen said colder weather Thursday could allow the river to freeze up again.

Temperatures over the weekend are expected to reach the upper 40s and fall into the 30s overnight, according to Joe Cebulko, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany.

That could be a recipe for the ice to then melt in place, Cebulko said.

“We should breathe a sigh of relief,” Garver said. “But understand, it’s not over.”

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Waterways Council, Inc.