By Allison Collins
SIDNEY – The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory in Sidney Saturday, Jan. 13, after weather conditions caused a potentially dangerous ice jam to form in a state Highway 7 section of the Susquehanna River. While the advisory was lifted later that day, a second flood watch was issued Tuesday around noon and the jam remains, with local emergency personnel watching closely.
On Tuesday, first assistant chief with the Sidney Fire Department and Deputy Delaware Fire Coordinator Ray Baker said, “The threat level is minor and we’re monitoring it daily.”
Director of Delaware County Emergency Services and Delaware County Fire Coordinator Steve Hood added, “All we’re doing is monitoring it. There is the potential for flooding based on current forecasts and obviously, with the ice jam there, that could exacerbate things rather quickly … (but) unfortunately, there’s not much you can do with an ice jam other than watch it and move people.”
Baker said configuration of the jam, bottlenecked near the property of Karen and Dave Wakeman of Sidney, has changed little since last week.
“I went up to Wakeman’s on Rte. 7 where the biggest problem is, and it’s still holding steady,” Baker said. “The front edge of it is starting to break up and water is flowing underneath, but … as of right now, there’s no change.” He added that flooding was “just at the back of the garage.”
Hood attributed the jam to dramatic shifts in temperature earlier this month.
“That first warm-up that we had last weekend was what formed it,” Hood said Tuesday. “When the ice broke up, it moved a little bit downstream and moved into a narrow section, (where) it got all jammed.” Baker, too, said that section of the river is especially low.
Baker and Hood said, if conditions change, area emergency agencies are ready to act.
“We already have things in place to move people,” Baker said, calling that an unlikely, “worst-case scenario.” He said, “We always have shelters … in place, so it’s simply where we would go to put (people) up … but it would have to be really bad to evacuate.”
Hood elaborated, “We’ve been in contact with the Red Cross in case they have to open up any shelters to move people in Sidney and we’ve gotten in touch with St. Luke’s to put them on standby.” He added, “They’re just waiting on our word if we do have to move people.”
Baker said he does not foresee needing to call state personnel in to disrupt the ice, which, if necessary, would be accomplished using dynamite.
“Obviously if it becomes an issue, the state can come in and break up the ice up,” he said, “but personally, I think it’s going to break itself up.”
Hood called that possibility ideal.
He said, “As soon as (the ice) starts to break up and start moving downstream, that’s the best case, that water rises enough to break up the jam and just moves it downstream and flushes it out.”
Baker encouraged area residents to report any obvious or dramatic changes to the jam with a 911 call.