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Arctic Air Threatens Ice Build-Up on Niagara Falls

By Kristina Pydynowski, Senior Meteorologist
January 17, 2014; 5:20 AM ET

Another surge of arctic air toward the end of the month could disrupt the picturesque Niagara Falls once again, bringing the threat of more ice jams.

In early January, the polar vortex brought below-normal temperatures, snarling the flow of water at the tourist attraction and creating significant ice build-up. When a thaw arrived a week later, the melting ice broke up and floated downstream resulting in ice jams.

Like the jams that formed in early January, the ice jams at the end of the month are not expected to create significant problems, as they were capable of in the mid-1800s.

On March 29, 1848, a massive ice jam reduced the mighty Niagara Falls to a trickle, a rare phenomenon that lasted for nearly 40 hours.

The ice jam developed as strong winds blew chunks of ice from Lake Erie into the Niagara River's entrance near Buffalo, blocking the flow of water to Niagara Falls.

Polish tourist Waldek Kubicki, 29, is seen on an iced-over rock formation near the edge of Niagara Falls Saturday, Feb. 10, 2007, in Niagara Falls, N.Y. (AP Photo/Eileen Koteras Elibol)

Residents first noticed the eerie silence of barely any water rushing over Niagara Falls during the evening of March 29.

In the hours that followed, a report from the New York State Assembly states that people were able to retrieve guns, bayonets and tomahawks--all artifacts from the War of 1812--77 from the exposed river bed.

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Some crew members of the famous "Maid of the Mist" used this time to blast away rocks that had created navigation hazards.

Nearby mills and factory machines, which used power generated from the Falls, had to be shut down.

Normalcy around Niagara Falls finally resumed during the night of March 31, when the ice jam broke free and water once again started roaring over the Falls.

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