Ice jams on a host of rivers have caused flood waters to invade several Iowa cities this week. Experts say the only cure is warmer weather. Ron Fournier, spokesperson for the Army Corps of Engineers in the Quad Cities, says there have been many studies conducted on ice jams, but there’s really nothing that can be done to break them up.
“Dynamite has been used as people believe blowing a hole in the ice will set it free,” Fournier says. “But, what happens with a big ice jam is you blow a big hole in the ice and it just comes back together and it doesn’t do any good. It’s just a temporary hole in the ice.”
Ice jams are formed when thick ice on a river begins to thaw and break up. The chunks of ice collect at bends in the river, at bridges and behind dams — forcing water out of the river banks.
Fournier says ice-breaking boats can be used to bust up ice jams, but it’s usually too difficult to get such large vessels on the smaller rivers and streams that produce ice jams. Some of the biggest ice jams this week occurred on the Cedar River and flooded areas of both Cedar Rapids and Cedar Falls.
Authorities say conditions have since improved as the ice is breaking up and river levels are falling. Fournier says people affected by ice jams should never try to tackle the problem themselves.
“There are individuals who think they can get out there…with a boat or ATV and try to break up the ice with an ax or something. That’s the most hazardous thing you can possibly do,” Fournier said. “We recommend you not attempt any of those endeavors because it is risking your life.”
Some of the homeowners in northwest Cedar Rapids who had their basements flooded this week decided to renovate after the 2008 flood rather than agree to a property buyout from the city.