A January thaw accompanied by rain is not the weather forecast that the Warren County Office of Emergency Services wanted to hear.
The extreme cold of the last few weeks has created a massive amount of river ice so far this winter, and temperatures that could top 50 degrees combined with up to 2 inches of rain could cause significant ice jam problems on rivers like the Hudson and Schroon. Power outages from freezing rain, ice and heavy, wet snow are also possible.
Warren County Emergency Services Director Brian LaFlure said his staff has been working with the National Weather Service in recent days to watch the Hudson for problem spots, and there appeared to be potential ice jams around the usual problem spots near The Glen and River Road in Chester.
He said his office’s emergency coordinator, Amy Hirsch, planned to tour the upper Hudson with National Weather Service staff on Thursday.
“There is a lot of ice,” he said. “We’ll know more after they do a drive around to some areas later today (Thursday).”
“The weather service is saying we could get up to three inches of rain. It’s going to depend on a lot of things, how much rain we get, how warm it gets whether the ice moves,” LaFlure added.
The concern is that the ice moves and blocks the river’s channel in places, causing water to back up and the river to jump its banks. The Hudson between Warrensburg, Thurman and North Creek has seen a number of major ice jams over the past few decades, several of them during January thaws/rain storms.
One in March 2011 caused numerous evacuations in Johnsburg and Chester, while roads have been closed for weeks when huge chunks of ice flow out of the river.
Glen Gosnell, Washington County’s director of public safety, said his office has been monitoring the Mettawee River and Batten Kill, but hadn’t heard of any potential problem spots. The Hoosic River sometimes has ice jam problems as well.
“We haven’t heard of any concerns so far,” he said.
He said he was in North River near the Hudson earlier this week, and saw a huge volume of ice, though.
“That ice is 10 feet deep in places,” Gosnell said.
Much of the region will see a wide variety of weather over the next couple of days as a major storm moves into the Northeast.
A flood watch is in effect for the region from Friday morning through Saturday morning, with possible ice jams on some rivers as temperatures rise into the 50s and one to three inches of rain falls.
Cold weather will move in for the tail end of the storm, and the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for Warren and northern Washington counties and a storm warning for Hamilton and Essex counties from 7 p.m. Friday to 7 p.m Saturday. Up to 10 inches of snow could fall in northern and western areas once the rain changes to snow.
The Glens Falls region should see two to five inches of snow by early Saturday as well as freezing rain as temperatures stay warmer than areas to the north. Colder temperatures will move in for Sunday, with teens likely as a high.