AP NEWS

Ice jams continue causing flooding concern locally

February 7, 2019

An expansive ice jam spanning along the Loup and Platte rivers this week has caused some lower land flooding throughout Columbus and county as a whole.

Around 7 p.m. Monday, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued a flood warning in Columbus and portions of Platte County, according to Brian Barjenbruch, a meteorologist with the NWS in Valley.

The problem at hand is the approximately 7-mile ice jam channeling through the area where the Loup and Platte rivers meet.

“The jam is on the Platte, but it backs up into the Loup, which is causing the majority of the problems,” Platte County Emergency Manager Tim Hofbauer said.

As a result, low land flooding has been occurring on both the north and south sides of the Loup River, affecting places like the Whitetail Lake and Whitetail subdivision, as well as land areas located around Quail Run Golf Course, Hofbauer said.

The emergency manager said that river conditions started taking a turn for the worse late last week. A significant amount of ice moved through the area on the Loup River, and cold weather on Saturday and Sunday resulted in slushy ice forming moving west.

“We have seen some flooding on the river side of the levy side at Quail Run,” he said. “And last night (Tuesday), we started seeing some water backing up on the south side of the Loup and backing up to the Highway 30/U.S. 81 junction in the ditches. There was also water west of the T-Bone Truck Stop in the field west of there. That water is still there, and there is still some flowing.”

The ice jams cause issues because they prevent flowing water from having a place to go, Barjenbruch said.

“They can happen very fast sometimes. That ice will just pile pretty fast, and it doesn’t take long for water to get into places where it usually isn’t, or shouldn’t be,” the meteorologist said, noting his office has been in frequent contact with Hofbauer regarding the ongoing situation … “Sometimes all it takes is a curve in the river and then it starts piling up like a dam, or sorts. As the ice continues piling up, it angles and piles up on other pieces, and before you know it, there’s not enough room for the river water to go through, so it has to find a way to go around.”

Hofbauer said that ice jams are fairly common during the cold weather season, but noted that typically they start happening in late February or early March. This year, the jams are happening just a bit early, he added.

Barjenbruch noted that until the jam breaks up or moves, the concern of flooding is still there. As a result, as of Wednesday afternoon, the flood warning was still in effect.

“The good thing, though, is that the volume of water coming down (the Loup River) is anywhere from 500-1,000 cubic feet per second,” Hofbauer said. “In comparison, in 1993 when we had a major flood that washed out roads and some houses, there was an estimated 50,000 cubic feet (of water moving) per second. So, we are 100 times less than that, and because of that, (the flooding) has been limited to low land areas just around the river.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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