Ice jams cause flooding, safety concerns along northwest Ohio rivers

Ice jams cause flooding, safety concerns along northwest Ohio rivers
Independence Dam (Source: Domingo Pina)
Independence Dam (Source: Domingo Pina)

(Toledo News Now) - The recent warm-up has caused some ice jams in northwest Ohio. It's important to stay safe while the water rises.

Officials say widespread flooding shouldn't be a problem right now, but in areas like Side Cut Metropark in Maumee, it's certainly an issue.

“It's kind of a moving flood,” said Scott Carpenter with Toledo Metroparks. “What we're waiting on now is the ice to move out.”

Side Cut is completely closed. Huge chunks of ice are moving downriver and the roads near the park are flowing with water.

“It's a bigger flood than normal, but there is always some degree of flooding, so it's not unusual,” Carpenter said.

The cold February is to blame for the flooding. The lakes and rivers developed a thick coat of ice which is now breaking up.

Rain is forecasted for this weekend, which Carpenter says could be good or bad.

“We don't know if it will be more good or more bad, but in the short-term when the ice is jamming up the river, that's more water to back up,” he said. “Long-term, more water in the river can help flush out that ice, and that's what we want.”

In the meantime, the river is two feet below flood stage and walking near it is considered dangerous. Park rangers will be out and people could be cited.

In Defiance, however, ice in the Maumee River and over Independence Dam is not expected to cause flooding issues.

This ice is more of spectacle than a scare for residents, bringing out many people to admire the natural beauty at Independence Dam.

“It's incredible; look at all the people who came down here just to watch Mother Nature at her best,” said Defiance resident Ruth Schafer.

Ice jams have been piling up most of the day Friday in Defiance, especially where the Auglaize River meets the Maumee. Residents who live near the river say the ice breaking up almost sounds like a fireworks show.

“When the ice goes out, it snaps and clacks and it's pretty loud,” said resident Don Schultz. “Sometimes you might think it's a thunderstorm.”

Defiance County's Emergency Management Director Julie Rittenhouse has been keeping a close eye on the Auglaize and Maumee rivers. So far she is happy with what she is seeing: Some areas that normally would flood aren't expected to have any problems.

“We're actually in better shape than we expected for the spring,” said Rittenhouse. “The ice is starting to break up so the rivers are flowing through.”

Emergency management officials say the Maumee River will crest some time Friday night.

Emergency personnel in Seneca County are worried that the ice in the Sandusky River in the Tiffin area could cause trouble for residents upstream.

So far, the Sandusky through downtown Tiffin is clear of any significant ice jam, but a few miles upstream, it is still completely covered in ice.

The ice jams there are not expected to raise the water level above the nine-foot minor flood stage, but they still could cause sudden overflows in certain parts of the river.

“I think it's more of, ‘just wait and watch and be prepared,'” said Seneca County Emergency Management Director Daniel Stahl. “And try to get the word out to the people that could be affected on the upstream side of the jam.”

Stahl recommends homeowners and drivers make an assertive effort to know the current conditions on the river levels until the spring thaw is complete.

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