Forecasters Continue to Watch for Ice Jams

WEST PITTSTON -- With the return of cold weather, ice has started forming again on parts of the Susquehanna River.

But experts with the National Weather Service who track the dangers of flooding along the river don't believe ice jams are still a big concern.

It's been one week since the ice jam on part of the Susquehanna River finally broke and the water levels started to drop back to normal again. But massive ice chunks are still along the river.

During a weather event like last week's flooding of the Susquehanna River in Luzerne County, the National Weather Service Binghamton office will issue a warning or a watch and we will relay the message.

Service hydrologist Jim Brewster is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service and specializes in monitoring the rivers in our forecast area.

"It was about a 12-mile long, I can't really call it a jam at the time. But the river was frozen, so we do need to make that distinction, when a river just freezes up and when there are actual ice jams causing problems," Brewster said.

Prior to last week's ice jam in West Pittston, Brewster was monitoring the freeze on this part of the Susquehanna. What happened next is almost impossible to predict: when and where an ice jam will occur.

"Then we had the warmup, the snow melted. We had some rain, especially up here in the New York basins. We were able to loosen the ice that forms on the river that sheets, and then as the water comes down, it tends to mechanically lift that ice out and start pushing it all the way downstream."

Part of the Susquehanna River near Owego, New York is still frozen, but meteorologists with the National Weather Service say it is probably too late in the season to see another freeze like this one, on the Susquehanna near us.

"I think we will have some form," Brewster said. "It's probably going to be on the smaller creeks and streams, more like on Tunkhannock Creek where there was flooding in Nicholson. I think those areas are more susceptible."

The aftermath of last week's ice jam in Luzerne County now attracts some tourists. But what makes those chunks of ice so large?

"As the sheets move, and the individual chunks move, they run into the geography of the land or they run into bridges. I believe it's more like many pieces of ice compressed together, and then of course if it snows, there's a little bit of that sticking to it. So, I don't necessarily think it's just those large chunks forming in the river."

While another deep freeze is possible, the experts say it becomes harder for a lot of ice to form on the river as the sun angle gets higher but the national weather service will be watching and so will we.