On Monday, the Water Security Agency (WSA) issued an advisory for potential ice jams on the Moose Jaw River, due to a recent warm spell melting the snow at a rapid pace.
Before we get into the danger that lies within ice jams, WSA spokesperson, Patrick Boyle explains what they are and how they work.
“An ice jam is what happens when you get the right climatic conditions, so you will have the right temperatures during your spring run-off season,” says Boyle. “You would get warmer temperatures moving very quickly. What happens is the ice is still very thick, but the water is flowing, so the ice is moving.”
The concern with the moving of ice is at a certain point it will create a dam on a river system or a body of water and then will flood back.
“Upstream will have flooding issues because of that but the second part of that issue is when that dam releases and you get a surge of water and then it can cause potential issues downstream as well. You really have two different problems that are created because of ice jams,” adds Boyle.
Boyle adds that ice dams can be very dangerous because of the flow underneath the surface and advises residents to stay clear of a river or body of water.
“You never know when it’s going to break and there are big chunks of ice that can cause problems. It can be a pretty serious hazard.”
What the WSA looks at when monitoring the ice jams, is the change in temperature.
“What we look for is that +5/-5 swing. Plus 5 during the day, a nice melt, and then at night it freezes, and then you get a gradual slow melt and that’s where things go smoothly. If you have these sustained temperatures that get up 15 to 20 degrees and stay above zero overnight, then that creates your issues.”
Boyle explains that ice jams are very unpredictable, which makes them very difficult to mitigate because you don’t know when and where they are going to happen.
Ice jams are more common in river systems that have several twists and turns, such as the Moose Jaw River.
The potential of flooding is also a hazard to those living in those low-lying areas along the Moose Jaw River because of ice jams.
For those residents, Boyle suggests keeping an eye on the river system for any shifts in the ice and being prepared for the potential of flooding.
“Typically, in Moose Jaw and the people in the valley are used to this on a regular basis so it won’t come as a surprise to them. It’s something to look out for and if you must mitigate and protect your property, prepare accordingly.”
The Moose Jaw Fire Department, along with the WSA will continue to monitor the conditions and provide updates on potential ice jams as conditions develop.