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New York emergency officials monitor for ice jams

(WCAX)
Published: Feb. 4, 2019 at 5:07 PM EST
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Rising temperatures and rain in the forecast has Essex and Clinton County, New York, emergency officials monitoring for ice jams on local rivers.

It was a little over a year ago that an ice jam on the Saranac River flooded Plattsburgh's Underwood Estates, displacing 77 families. Many who lost their homes remain nervous about the potential for future flooding.

"We lost everything. I mean we lost everything that we worked for," said Sherry Provost, an Underwood Estates resident for the past 35 years. "There's been a lot of water. We're down on the low end. The corner here really looks like a pond sometimes especially after the winter."

Provost say she has seen a lot of flooding, but nothing like she saw last year. "Three-feet of water inside which all turned to ice," she said.

She had to replace everything she owns. Pugsley, her dog, made it out with her, but her cats didn't. She couldn't move into her new trailer for nine months. Some here chose not to move back in at all. "We're a little neighborhood down here. A lot of them aren't here anymore because they didn't want to come back. They thought it would happen again so a lot have gone separate ways," Provost said.

Other neighbors said the same thing -- they fear flood waters will destroy homes once again.

Emergency officials are watching the AuSable, Saranac and Great Chazy Rivers. "Those are the three that we typically have problems with here in the country," said Eric Day with Clinton County Emergency Services. "As it warms up over the next couple of days, or it stays warm the next couple of days, and if we get any rain then there's certainly potential for movement. And when ice starts moving, there's always potential for an ice jam."

Day says you can't predict when they break or how bad it will be, and that's why they monitor them. "This next couple of days is a good time to pay attention to the river and watch what's going on -- have situational awareness," he said.

Provost says whatever happens is out of her hands. Like emergency officials, she's just watching and waiting. "You know, if it's God's will for it to happen again, what can you do? You know? It is what it is," she said.

The ice jam was the main cause of the January 2018 flooding but officials say it was exacerbated by a berm that allowed water to flow into the park. They have since reconstructed and extended that berm to try to prevent a recurrence.