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Officials continue to monitor Mohawk River for potential flooding

Officials continue to monitor Mohawk River for potential flooding

Concerns could arise this weekend with temperatures expected in 40s
Officials continue to monitor Mohawk River for potential flooding
Schenectady police keep a close eye on the Mohawk River on Tuesday.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

State and local officials are monitoring water levels of the Mohawk River as concerns over possible flooding continue.

A 12-mile ice jam has formed from Rotterdam Junction to just past the Rexford Bridge because of rapid fluctuation of temperatures over the last month, according to Britt Westergard, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Albany.

On Tuesday, city police, firefighters and state emergency officials could be seen along the Mohawk River monitoring water levels. The National Weather Service issued a flood watch through Wednesday morning for Schenectady.

Westergard said they measure for flooding at Freemans Bridge. She said flooding begins when river water levels reach 220 feet above sea level or more. On Tuesday, she said water levels were at 214 feet and were only forecasted to go up to 215 feet. However, she said that could change.

Westerberg said ice jams are “unstable and unpredictable,” so it is hard to say what could happen next.

“There’s a whole range of possibilities,” Westergard said.

One concern, she said, is if the river were to rise while the ice jam doesn’t move at all. That could create a dam. This would leave the water with nowhere to go and cause flooding.

Minor flooding occurred in the Stockade neighborhood, in areas such as Ingersoll Avenue and Riverside Park, during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend due to the ice jams. Floodwaters did eventually recede, but the ice jams stayed in place.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday in a news release that he has activated 130 National Guard members to potentially be deployed to areas across the state that could experience flooding. Those Guard members include 26 from Scotia. He added several other state agencies, including the state Department of Transportation, state police and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, are monitoring ice jams.

“As ice jams and high water levels threaten our communities, the state is working with our local partners to help mitigate flooding across the state,” Cuomo said in the release. “I urge residents in areas prone to flooding to stay informed and take precautions to protect themselves, their families and their homes.”

Ice jams can form any time between January and March, Westergard said. What is different, she said, is the number of ice jams occurring across New York state and the new England area.

Because the weather was so cold for two weeks from the tail end of December until mid-January, the ice that formed in the river became incredibly thick, Westergard said. When the weather became warm and rain began to fall, the ice was too strong to completely melt and break away.

Ideally, Westergard said, the river ice could have melted the way it did during the spring of 2015. She said this occurred because the temperature rose gradually, staying slightly above freezing during the day and slightly below freezing at night. It also was March, so the sun was at an angle where it could melt the ice.

Ingrid Amberger, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Albany, said temperatures are expected to drop to lows in the upper 20s Tuesday night, with a high of around 32 degrees on Wednesday. She said temperatures are expected to stay below freezing until Saturday and Sunday, where they are expected to rise to the 40s with some rainfall on Sunday.

“There will be a renewed concern for flooding over the weekend,” Amberger said.

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