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Ice jams: live along the Niagara River? You can breathe easy

Posted at 5:43 PM, Jan 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-29 17:43:10-05

GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. (WKBW) — Over the course of Tuesday, a flood warning was downgraded to a flood watch in the City of Niagara Falls. Plummeting temperatures and massive chunks of ice flowing from the lake into the Niagara River had experts concerned over the possibility of ice jam related flooding.

“When you have a big wide lake and a narrow river, and as ice comes down it can choke the river, cause back up flooding and nobody wants to see that," Lou Paonessa says, Community Affairs Director at the New York Power Authority.

Ice jam can cause water levels to rise, resulting in a variety of property damage to homes/buildings, docks and hoists. The Niagara River Station Fishing Club's docks in Grand Island were at the water's edge.

"When this freezes and the water level goes down we’re going to have a lot of damage," Fishing club member, Robert Burgin says. “There's basically not much you can prevent when it's this cold and backs up like that. Not without putting yourself in danger and going out there and trying to do something."

Locations like Cayuga Island along the Niagara River are most susceptible to flooding damage due to their proximity to the water. Ice breaker boats and an ice boom at the mouth of the lake are used to mitigate the amount of ice flowing down the river.

The City of Niagara Falls released this statement on Tuesday:
Niagara Falls, N.Y. -- Mayor Paul Dyster and public safety officials are reminding residents about safety protocols in place in the wake of upcoming winter weather events and concerns of potential flooding along the Niagara River, specifically the Cayuga Island community. Public safety officials in partnership with the New York Power Authority continue to monitor water levels around the clock. As of mid-day Tuesday, a flood warning along the Niagara River was downgraded to a flood watch. Should conditions worsen, Cayuga Island residents are reminded that in the event of flooding due to an ice jam, that they will be personally contacted by public safety officers going door-to-door should the need for an evacuation arise. Mayor Dyster said, “Water levels are being closely monitored and will continue to be throughout the week. Although our most recent data shows the Niagara River at a level below damage elevation, we ask that Cayuga Island residents remain vigilant and assist our public safety officers as they work to keep our community safe.” Residents with questions are encouraged to call the Niagara Falls Police non-emergency line at 286-4711.