Buffalo, NY -- The snowpack will be melting and the water levels rising during this late week thaw and flooding is a big concern, especially ice jam flooding on area creeks.
"When it shuts off the flow even on a minor stream flow it can back up enough water that could exceed the elevation of a 100, 200 even a 500 year normal flood event," said Gary Shoffstall, the Chief of Emergency Management for the United States Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District. "Even if you've never had a flood in your lifetime, if you live near water be prepared to evacuate and keep an eye on it."
Ice jams are a big threat right now since the cold winter has allowed for quite a bit of ice to form on waterways. "The creeks have seen extremely low temperatures all winter long. We have a lot of ice on the tributaries and rivers. Lake Erie for the most part is frozen over, I have no place for the ice to go, it has nowhere to escape, so we are going to have a lot of ice jams," Shoffstall explained.
There are mechanisms already in place to help alleviate flooding, including ice control structures on Cazenovia Creek, where ice jams can be a problem. "To break up the ice into smaller chunks that will easily pass downstream," Shoffstall said.
Shoffstall also explained that the structures help stop bigger ice chunks and allow any water that's backed up to safely flow around that spot and then continue downstream. The United States Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District is behind many of these flood prevention devices and takes flood risk management very seriously. "Clearing and debris projects where we've come through and cleaned up a lot of debris," Shoffstall said. "Side slops have actually been encased in concrete, this is to help stabilize the slopes and control the channels."
The Army Corps of Engineers execute an annual $1.6 billion flood risk management program of coastal and riverine projects centered around a watershed, life cycle approach of preparation, response, recovery, and mitigation. It also works closely with local emergency crews. "Just be prepared to leave if necessary... you should always think of personal safety and get your family out of harms way first," Shoffstall reminded. "The other stuff can be replaced."