ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Ice jams are common during the late winter and early spring here in the Twin Tiers. They can create hazardous conditions along the banks of rivers. But what causes them? During the winter the Twin Tiers is no stranger to staying below freezing for extended periods of time, at times even dipping below zero degrees. With this extreme cold, comes frozen rivers. Ice begins to form during cold nights during the early winter along the river banks and eventually can freeze over during long bouts of below freezing temperatures as winter progresses.
As winter slowly begins to release its grip on the Twin Tiers and temperatures start warming up, the ice begins to slowly diminish and break apart as the river continues to flow. As the ice moves downstream, the ice can jam up in grooves or sharp turns in the river. The river continues to flow and the ice continues to pile up. When this occurs, the river water backs up and eventually breaks it’s banks. This is especially common if there is a recent rain storm which adds to the volume of the rushing water. When the river breaks its banks the water can flood houses, businesses, or crops along the river. Eventually over time, the ice jam will let up but not before the damage is already done.