Idaho officials warn of flooding caused by snow thaw

Posted at 11:58 AM, Jan 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-05 13:58:53-05

The Idaho Office of Emergency Management says it has upped its awareness, level due to the likelihood of flooding when temperatures rise above freezing -- which is expected on Sunday.

Currently, the Lemhi River, the Big Wood River and the Snake River near Weiser are all experiencing ice jam-related minor flooding. Experts say ice jams happen when shallower areas of rivers freeze faster than deeper areas, and the ice gets stuck where the river bends or curves.

Lemhi County is currently experiencing minor to moderate flooding in low areas near the Salmon River north of the city of Salmon, according to an IOEM press release. A high-risk area for flooding in the southeastern part of the state includes the Snake River above the American Falls reservoir.

“One of Idaho’s major hazards is flooding following significant snowfall and subsequent rapid thawing,” said Idaho Office of Emergency Management Deputy Director Brad Richy. “In fact, in 1997, melting snow caused by similar weather conditions, led to a statewide Presidential Disaster Declaration. Being aware of the potential dangers and making sure both your car and your home have emergency kits is critically important.”

“Urban areas of the state also face challenging weather-related conditions. Storm drains can be backed up once the snow starts melting. Snow and ice-covered tree branches can fall on both power lines and structures, especially where there is thawing and then a return to sub-freezing temperatures,” said IOEM spokesperson Elizabeth Duncan.

(Associated Press contributed to this story)