Photos: Massive ice jam causes Housatonic River to swell to dangerous levels in Kent, Connecticut

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
January 20, 2018, 10:41:51 AM EST

A state of emergency was declared as ice-jam flooding along the Housatonic River forced evacuations and caused damage to buildings in Kent, Connecticut, this week.

Hazards are ongoing for the community as icy waters encroach schools and buildings that have not yet been assessed for damage, following the declaration of a state of emergency on Jan. 15.

Upcoming warm weather and rainfall may add to the concerns facing this community and others that have been affected by ice jams and flooding.

An ice jam occurs when water builds up behind a blockage of ice. Ice floes and ice jams have the potential to cause significant flooding and damage along rivers in cold winter conditions.

Kent, CT ice jams and flooding

Flooding in Kent CT as the result of ice jam on the Housatonic River at Kent School on Jan. 14, 2018. (Twitter/ AParsons79)

Massive ice jams hindered the flow of the Housatonic River in Kent on Saturday, Jan. 13. A large amount of water flowing from the north started to build up behind the jam and flood the surrounding area.

A total of 12 people, four homes and the Kent School have been evacuated since the start of the incident. Five buildings are currently inaccessible and have yet to be assessed for damage, according to a Facebook post by State Representative Brian Ohler on Jan. 19.

The flooding also led to several road closures in affected areas.

The Kent School campus was among those areas that was hit the hardest by the flooding. The school was surrounded by ice and water leading to the evacuation of the campus.

The Kent School remains closed and evacuated until further notice.

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Albany extended the flood warning for southwestern parts of Litchfield County in northern Connecticut until 1:30 p.m. EST on Monday, Jan. 22, due to the flooding in Kent.

"Water level and ice level observers have reported that the Housatonic River has receded by approximately 50 inches over the past six days, but is still estimated to be approximately 6.5 feet above seasonal levels," Ohler said in his Facebook post on Jan. 19.

While the ice jam remains largely intact and in place.

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Local officials and emergency teams are working to secure the issue. It was confirmed that clean-up crews successfully removed large blocks of ice and other pieces of debris. The river receded to safe levels, Ohler tweeted on Jan. 18.

"The ideal situation for a gradual thaw is to have three to five days with an average high temperature of 42 degrees Fahrenheit along with some minor to moderate rainfall," Ohler wrote in a Facebook post on Jan. 19.

Emergency management officials are hopeful that those two variables will increase the volume of water in the river to a level that is necessary to break up the ice and begin moving it downstream, according to the Facebook post.

"There is going to be a brief warmup where temperatures are going to be in the lower and middle 40s this weekend, so the ice is going to break up again," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Paul Walker said.

Temperatures can spike to the lower 50s on Tuesday.

A bit of rain and drizzle developing on Monday will evolve into heavier rain for a time on Tuesday. Rainfall will generally average 0.5 of an inch to 1 inch, with some places getting as much as 1.5 inches.

While lower rainfall, below 0.5 of an inch, may help the situation, heavier rainfall may further increase the runoff and could cause more problems along the rivers, Walker said.

"We have been urging the public to avoid the ice jam at all times," Ohler said on Jan. 19.

"With the anticipated snow and ice thaw beginning on Saturday and continuing until Tuesday, we must stress and reiterate just how dangerous the ice jam is." Ohler said.

There will likely be ice-jam flooding concerns across the Northeast over the next couple of weeks, according to Walker.

Kent, Connecticut, was one of many communities experiencing ice jams and flooding during the recent January freezes and thaws.

Major ice jam flooding occurred across western Pennsylvania to the Finger Lakes region of New York on Jan. 12.

AccuWeather Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer captured the ice-covered Allegheny River in a tweet. The Allegheny River ice jam caused flooding damage and displaced entire mobile homes from their foundations in East Brady, Pennsylvania.

Ice jams also caused flooding and a polar scenery along the Connecticut River.

Social media users captured the extent of the damage from the ice jam and flooding in Kent.

Ice jam on the Housatonic River  1-13-18

Ice jam on the Housatonic River. Photo taken from Lovers Leap bridge in New Milford, Connecticut on Jan. 13, 2018. (Twitter/dettigsgal)

Ice Jam Kent 1-13-2018

Housatonic River at Kent School on Jan. 13, 2018. Major flooding on campus with some cars underwater. (Twitter/ AParsons79)

Flooding in Kent, CT

Flooding in Kent, CT as the result of ice jam on the Housatonic River at Kent School on Jan. 14, 2018. (Twitter/ AParsons79)

Kent ice jam

Water has receded about a foot but ice is not moving. Photo taken at 11:15 a.m. EST at the Kent School on Jan. 14, 2018. (Twitter/ AParsons79)

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