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Ice Jam in Owego Could Cause Flooding Throughout the Twin Tiers

OWEGO, N.Y. (18 NEWS)- - Mother Nature tends to test our limits throughout the year, and winter can be especially tough with frigid temperatures causing large chunks of ice to pile up in rivers and streams.

Flooding in Campbell last week, along the Susquehanna Wednesday, and now...more concerns in the Twin Tiers. 

Sheets and chunks of ice spanning 6 miles of the Susquehanna River in Owego.

"His house had been surrounded by water so the water rescue team had to go out and rescue him and his dog from their residence and at that point we realized that it was caused by the initial stages of the ice jam," Michael Simmons, Director of Tioga County Management said. 

People now wondering what will happen if that ice jam breaks.

"They are very unpredictable, they could release at any time. In general though we have some guidelines that we look at as far as predicting at least the conditions that would be favorable for them to move out," Jim Brewster, a Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Binghamton said. 

The National Weather Service says a significant warm up or rain event would be needed in order to move such a large amount of ice and that one of two things could happen if it does:

"The best scenario would be for the ice to loosen up, get into the stream and just kind of move down the stream in chunks and not be a factor at all. However, if all or most of it is released and moves downstream it's best chance for jamming up would be around bridges downstream," Brewster said. 

"If an ice jam blocks the waterway, the rules all change. It could stop water anywhere and cause flooding in locations where we don't usually have it," Simmons said. 

The ice in Owego has communities both upstream and downstream on edge, preparing for the worst.

"We don't want to panic people we just want to make sure that if something happens we can get ahold of them and get them out of danger," Jo Ann Daly, Bradford County Emergency Management Coordinator said. 

Experts with the National Weather Service say parts of neighboring Bradford County are geographically prone to flooding because the river bends in that area. 

"So when you get down to the Waverly, Sayre, and Athens area... as the river turns in the south of Pennsylvania and meets up with the Chemung River...that was one of the favored areas for flooding," Brewster said. 

Bradford County Emergency Management says they're ready.

"Should anything happen we have our code red emergency communication network that we can make calls within seconds to certain areas along the river for evacuation or for letting them know that something is going on," Daly said. 

If you do get that call, experts say don't wait. Ice jams can be as quick and dangerous as they are unpredictable. 

"These are the situations that can act like a flash flood. If you get an ice jam, that water is going to pile up pretty quick and it could release pretty quick so I think the biggest thing that people need to be aware of even when they're paying attention is be ready to get out fast," Brewster said. 

The National Weather Service says current forecasts for the next few days don't show conditions favorable for moving that ice jam, but that things can change in an instant. They recommend paying close attention to your local meteorologists.   

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