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Ice Jam Flooding

Resources for Local Officials and Emergency Managers

DEC's Role During Ice Jam Emergencies

Ice jams are an accumulation of ice at a given location in a river which restricts the flow of water. Even through ice jam events occur frequently in New York, the decision to take any action is a local responsibility. If local municipalities or counties require assistance by DEC, they should call 1-877-457-5680.

DEC drone captures an ice jam emergency
response in Warrensburg, NY

DEC encourages municipal officials to immediately undertake local assessments of potential ice jams in flood-prone areas and to remove any accumulating ice or woody debris. DEC permits and authorization are not required to remove debris unless stream banks or beds will be disturbed by debris removal and/or the use of heavy equipment. Municipalities and local governments are advised to contact DEC's Regional Permit Administrators if any assistance is required or to help determine if a permit is necessary.

In the event of an emergency, DEC stands ready to approve Emergency Authorizations to expedite approval of projects on an expedited basis in place of an individual permit, and generally these authorizations can be issued within 24 hours. DEC approves Emergency Authorizations for situations that are deemed an emergency based on the immediate protection of life, health, general welfare, property, or natural resources. Emergency authorizations are issued with suitable conditions to protect the environment.

United States Army Corps of Engineers' (USACE) Role During Ice Jam Emergencies

The USACE ice jam policy states that removal of an ice jam is a local responsibility and should only be undertaken as a last resort action. However, if federal help is requested by local authorities, the Corps can provide technical advice and assistance. If an immediate life or property situation exists due to an ice jam the Corps can provide flood-fighting assistance or advance measures as per Public Law 84-99, the USACE Emergency Management Authority (leaves DEC website). The Ice Jams and Advance Measures Fact Sheet (leaves DEC website) from Philadelphia USACE District has lists common questions and answers for USACE ice jam emergency assistance.

The Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab (CRREL) in New Hampshire maintains a group of experts who can answer most ice jam questions. CRREL works through the Corps Districts except for quick short calls seeking advice over the phone. To request CRREL emergency assistance for a specific ice jam issue the Corps District Emergency Management office needs to be contacted. The geographical coverage area and contact number for these Corps Districts is below:

NYS Map showing boundary of Corps Districts
Map of NYS Flood Protection Projects and Corps Districts

Ice Jam Assistance within New York State from USACE Districts

District Area Covered Emergency Management Phone #
New York District Hudson River Watershed 917-790-8500
Buffalo District Great Lakes Watershed 716-879-4160
Baltimore District Susquehanna River Watershed 410-962-2013
Philadelphia District Delaware River Watershed 215-656-6500, then press 9
Pittsburgh District Allegany River Watershed 412-841-7492
New England District Housatonic River Watershed 978-318-8274

USACE Ice Jam Website

The USACE Ice Jam website (leaves DEC website) consists of two components: the Oracle Ice Jam Database (IJDB) and the Clearinghouse. Information provided on the website is used by USACE, NOAA, and state and local agencies for emergency response.

  • Data in the Ice Jam Database may be viewed via an Web accessible interactive map using map-based queries or viewed as tabulated data which can be queried using text-base tools. This database is maintained by the Ice Engineering Group at CRREL and currently consists of over 22,600 records from across the US.
  • The Ice Jam Clearinghouse contains several tools and links for accessing information about both historic and current ice jams, and related information about the processes involved in the formation of an ice jam.

Additional Winter Weather and Ice Information

A winter weather forecast page (leaves DEC website) compiled by the National Weather Service lists current hazards including ice accumulation forecasts.

The National Weather Service also has an Ice Jam Reference and Trouble Spots (leaves DEC website) document under "Ice Jams" on their Albany, NY "Hydrology: local information" webpage that is specific to the Albany Hydrologic Service Area. The document provides general rules on weather conditions most likely to cause either a freeze-up or break-up ice jam and lists locations where ice jams regularly reoccur.