Warren County officials are keeping a close eye on the ice jam that has persisted on the Hudson River between Thurman and Warrensburg since last month amid concerns it could cause the river to back up as it did four weeks ago.
A cold snap earlier this month caused more ice to form, and a quick warm-up and thaw could lead to more problems in that area, said Britt Westergard, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Albany.
Huge chunks of ice that moved downriver during a warm spell in late January have lodged near the Hudson’s confluence with the Schroon River. They caused water to back up on the Hudson upstream in Warrensburg and sent tons of ice across River Road in Thurman.
“Certainly, if that ice does not get moving and we get more water, it could start backing up behind it again,” Westergard said.
Warren County Office of Emergency Services has been monitoring the Hudson River almost daily to look for backups caused by ice jams since the problems of Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, said Brian LaFlure, the county’s director of emergency services. It took about two weeks for Thurman public works crews to carve a single lane through the ice that accumulated on River Road, LaFlure said. The ice was 10 feet high in places.
“If we get any decent amount of rain, it could be an issue,” LaFlure said.
How warm it gets and how much rain falls in the coming weeks will determine how much of an ice jam problem occurs. Westergard said the recent cold has allowed significant ice to accumulate. But snowfall has been below normal, so there is less to runoff when it does start melting, she added.
While this week’s snow will add more moisture to eventually make its way downstream, it also insulates ice and can slow down its melting.
Two years ago, the Hudson in North Creek flooded to record levels when snowmelt from an unusually snowy winter began coursing downstream. Last year, with the region seeing a dearth of snow and a warmer winter than usual, there were no problems.
Westergard said there have been no reports of ice jam issues on the Batten Kill or Mettawee River, two Washington County rivers that have occasionally had ice jam-related flooding. The Mohawk River between Saratoga and Schenectady counties has been having ice jam issues, she said.