Friday, March 13, 2015

Ice Breakup

Spring is getting closer every week here in the Binghamton area of upstate New York.

Last week, we were having lows below zero. This week, it suddenly warmed up.

Wednesday, we had a 52 degree (11 C) day.  I exercise walked with my spouse in a light sweater on a local rail trail, passing grasses glowing in the late afternoon sun.  Yes, the sun is another sign of spring in our climate.  When you have a sunny day, and it isn't freezing cold out, it means that spring can't be that far away.
Spring is still pretty far away, though. A plowed area that used to be a swamp was still covered in snow, but some water (the straight area going almost horizontally through the picture) was running. And, best of all, some brown grass was showing.

In March, it takes so little to make us happy.  Each day this week, there was less and less snow cover. Less and less ice to slide on each morning.  You'd think we would be celebrating.

But, at some point, the anxiety will begin.

One day, we will walk along the river and we will see incredibly large chunks of ice thrown up from the river, lying on the banks, sometimes some distance from the river.  It's called ice breakup.  And, this year, due to all our below zero weather, the ice is thicker than usual. 

When breakup happens, there is one problem.  Sometimes, the ice chunks jam up and block the river.  It can literally happen in seconds.  When that happens, flooding follows.  And we don't have just one river where I live.  We have two, the Susquehanna and the Chenango.

The Susquehanna is the most flood prone (due to ice jams) river in the Eastern United States - in fact,of any river East of the Rocky Mountains.  For my readers not from the United States - that is a lot of area.

But the Chenango can jam, too.

If a jam happens, there isn't much that can be done.

It isn't just here in the Binghamton, New York area where they worry..  Way downstream of us, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, they were monitoring the Susquehanna River weeks ago, waiting for the first signs of breakup.

If I can, I will try to get you some pictures after the ice break up happens.

Friday the 13th - let's hope it's a lucky day for our area.


  1. This sounds scary for the residents. I guess it could lead to flooding in low lying areas. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

  2. We're going through the same thing here in Iowa. River rising, but the ice is still there. HOpefully the flood walls contain it!

  3. Our winter was mild this last year. The bluebirds have return. The high for March 12th was 65.
    Coffee is on

  4. I can relate to the dilemma of snow and ice melting, ice jams, and flooding rivers! We encounter the same thing every spring here in Maine. We also happen to have a small brook that runs along the back of our property - but during sudden rains or heavy melting of snow and ice in the spring, that "small brook" becomes about 3 times it's width, plus it rises up to the top of the banking, AND our basement floods!

    Fortunately, we've had slow melt periods so far - our 6-foot snowbanks are now down to about 3 feet, so the amount of run-off, so far, has been gradual.

  5. Yes, I can relate to the flooding, too. It's happening in my basement as the snow melts and the water table rises. :( Still I am glad that Spring is on the way.

    Will hope that you don't get the dreaded ice jams and flooding.

  6. The snow looks lovely in pics but I hope warmer weather comes your way.

  7. Oh my, how scary, yet how thrilling! Do you have a nice place to walk along the river to watch? I confess I find natural phenomenon like your river getting mashed up quite entertaining.

  8. Our snow and ice is almost gone now (Toronto area), and we had rain the other day. Definitely seems like Spring, BUT the weather calls for snow this weekend. March is so unpredictable!


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