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Ice jam stable after flooding in Rotterdam

Ice jam stable after flooding in Rotterdam

Short section of Route 5S in Rotterdam Junction that was closed Friday was reopened to traffic Sunday afternoon
Ice jam stable after flooding in Rotterdam
Chunks of ice fill the Mohawk River as seen from Riverside Park in Schenectady's Stockade Neighborhood Sunday.
Photographer: Marc Schultz/Gazette Photographer

Following some flooding in Rotterdam Junction Friday afternoon caused by the breaking off of pieces and overall movement of the Mohawk River ice jam, experts say that the jam has stabilized for now, and should not cause any more flooding soon. 

The ice jam, which formed in late January, is situated primarily in the narrow stretches of River located in Rexford Knolls and just below Erie Canal Lock 8 near Maalwyck Park in Glenville.

A short section of Route 5S (Main Street) in Rotterdam Junction was closed to traffic starting on Friday due to flooding that happened when a portion of the jam located at the Mabee Farm Historic Site came loose around 2 p.m. and slammed into the back end of the jam located near Maalwyck Park.

That collision and the blocking of water in the area caused the flooding that prompted officials to close a portion of Route 5S in lower Rotterdam Junction. The flood waters had receded by midnight on Saturday and the road was reopened to traffic on Sunday afternoon.

Town of Rotterdam Supervisor Steven Tommasone said Sunday that "Law enforcement from the Rotterdam Police Department notified residents on Saturday that the flooding had gone down," adding that "Flooding in the area of Rte. 5S (Main Street) at the intersection of Old Crawford Road has subsided and the road has been reopened. Mohawk River water elevations are continually being monitored, but appear to be declining at this time."

Johanne Ballmoos, who lives on Main Street, said on Sunday that the ice jam and yearly flooding is something area residents have come to terms with.

"Unless we have nice weather with no rain and snow, what happens is the ice gets jammed up in the river when it's cold out, and then we get some warm spells. It rains and then it floods in that low area by the Kiwanis Park on Route 5S," Ballmoos said. "I think people who've lived here a long time are sort of used to it. They just think of it as a natural thing, even though they are concerned about their properties and homes."

John Garver, a Union College geologist who studies Mohawk River ice jams near Schenectady, described the ice jam as "significant," as it continues to pose an ongoing flood hazard, although water levels had stabilized by Sunday.

At this point, the collision of the ice that caused Friday's flooding has fused into one, six mile long jam. The main two-mile jam in Rexford Knolls has yet to move and pass through Schenectady, and is being watched closely by emergency management crews, Garver said.

But the jam, for now, he said, is holding.

"We're in a pretty stable situation right now," Garver said. "There's no immediate threat. Right now it's kind of passive."

While he noted he isn't a meteorologist, Garver added that high temperatures along with heavy rain is what would cause flooding, which is not projected to happen for at least the coming week.

"What we really need is high precipitation and really warm temperatures," he said on Sunday. 

Right now, Garver said, the priority should be making sure that people who might be affected by flooding, including Stockade residents, are prepared. Hopefully the ice won't all melt at once and cause a problem, he said, but being prepared for that is a necessity. 

"We're at point where now we have to wait and watch and hope. We are hoping that there's a slow burn," Garver said.

This year's ice jam, while going through similar movements, is almost half the size of last year's.

A historic, 17-mile long ice jam formed in the Mohawk River in 2018 from weeks of frigid weather that began at the end of December 2017 causing thick ice to form in the river.

The ice formation was followed by a period of above-average temperatures combined with heavy rain and snowmelt, causing flooding.

There was no update on the flooding from emergency management officials on Sunday, Schenectady County spokesman Joe McQueen said.

"We are just continuing to monitor the river and communicating with each of our local municipalities," he said in an emailed statement.

Weather experts do not expect the jams to move in the immediate future. 

National Weather Service meteorologist Ingrid Amberger said on Sunday that high temperatures throughout the week will peak in the mid 30s, dipping to the teens and single digits during the evening.

Amberger added that while there is the chance for sleet and snow on Tuesday, the system will not bring the rain that's needed to melt the ice.

"We're not looking at any significant melting or rainfall," she said.


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