Icy river being watched
for flooding potential
By Duane Good, EDITOR
The Susquehanna River at Millersburg
March 2. (Sentinel photo by Duane Good)
As March begins, the Susquehanna River
remains under a sheet of ice, the product of a month of
largely subfreezing temperatures.
How long it remains that way is anyone's
‘‘It definitely has our attention,’’ said Ben
Pratt of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, a
Harrisburg-based organization that monitors the river’s
overall health and flooding potential.
‘‘For the time being, the ice isn’t going
anywhere,’’ he said late last week. ‘‘Our biggest concern
now is how the weather is going to behave.’’
According to Pratt, the Susquehanna not only is
‘‘locked up pretty tight’’ up and down the basin, but a snowpack is
present as well, ranging anywhere from 1 to 5 inches in depth,
depending on the region.
Conditions are "fairly similar" to March 1996, when
temperatures quickly rose above freezing and remained there, Pratt
said. Higher temperatures were joined by significant rainfall and
winds. That combination caused the river ice and the snowpack to
melt quickly, leading to flooding throughout the basin of both the
Susquehanna and its tributaries.
‘‘We saw a ‘perfect storm’ in 1996,’’ Pratt said.
‘‘What we’re hoping to see this year is everything melting down
slowly. For the time being, we wait and watch.’’
In addition to the flooding potential, the commission
is concerned that people will assume the sustained freezing
temperatures have frozen the river solid.
‘‘Just looking at it can be deceiving. There are
places where the ice isn't as thick,’’ Pratt said. ‘‘We’re
encouraging people to stay off the ice. They’re risking their own
physical well-being, as well as that of the first responders who
have to rescue them.’’