Ice jam increases flood risk in Payette

Posted at 6:05 PM, Jan 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-08 20:11:22-05

Heavy, wet snow is dangerously piling up on rooftops in Payette where an ice jam along the Snake River continues to back up. The Payette County Sheriff's Office is asking homeowners in that area to be prepared to evacuate if the level continues to rise.

The sheriff's office is not alone in closely monitoring this potential threat. The Idaho Emergency Operations Center is on a heightened alert right now. In this instance, it means they recognize there is a moderate risk for a flood event to occur due to rainfall on top of all this snow we've been getting. It also means they have crews closely monitoring water levels who are ready to assist, if necessary.

Even if you're not traveling a very long distance, it's advised to pack an emergency kit.

Experts recommend that you should also be prepared at home.

"Every family should have a 72-hour kit," says Elizabeth Duncan, public affairs officer for the Idaho Office of Emergency Management. "That means you need to have supplies... you need to have water, you need to have your medications, you need to have a blanket, batteries, a flashlight; all of the things you would need if, for instance, you were without power."

The Payette County Sheriff's Office sent out a code red alert to residents along the Snake River north of the town Saturday advising them to keep an eye on the river's water level.  Anyone can sign up to receive alerts through the sheriff office's website.

While farmers are worried about flooded fields, homeowners' roofs could be more susceptible to collapsing with the extra snow and freezing rain.

A family from Ontario crossed the nearby border to get a closer look at the frozen river.

"Our mom wanted to take some family pictures because she thought it looked really pretty," says Hope Nitta, 13.

Even people who don't live near the river, like the Nitta family, are sticking close to home for other reasons.

"We're mostly scared that the pipes will freeze," Nitta says.

Challenges urban areas face with a snow/rain melt off include backed up storm drains and weighted down tree branches that can break off and land on buildings and power lines.