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Ice jams could cause flooding locally, NWS warns

Thu., Jan. 8, 2009, 5:50 p.m.

Meteorologists are warning of ice jams and flooding in the region.

Ice jams in Hangman Creek along Highway 195 near Spokane could cause flooding overnight before the region’s rivers recede Friday as experts predict, according to the National Weather Service.

Over the last two days, Spokane lost at least half of its snowpack and the water content within it, the NWS said.

Along with Hangman, ice jams in the Palouse River, and the St. Joe River and St. Maries River in North Idaho have also been reported.

The ice creates dam-like structures in the river that “can build rapidly, and they can also release as suddenly as they build,” said Royce Fontenot, a service hydrologist with the NWS.

The Palouse River at Potlatch and the Coeur d’Alene River at Cataldo were expected to crest at or above flood stage overnight.

“We’re not forecasting the St. Joe River at St. Maries to reach flood stage, but certainly if there’s a significant ice jam, that could happen,” Fontenot said.

Ice jams on the St. Maries River shut down the pump station for the tiny town of Santa Thursday morning, prompting the Santa & Fernwood Water and Sewer District to ask more than 250 households to limit what they put into the sewer system.

Storm water overwhelmed the sewer system, sending sewage, composed mostly of storm water, into the river about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The drinking water systems of both towns have not been affected, the release said.

Ice and flooding prompted Benewah County to declare a state of emergency, and the NWS has issued flood warnings for small streams in Whitman, southern Spokane, Kootenai and Benewah counties until 3 p.m. Friday. Highway 27 from Tekoa to Oakesdale in northeastern Whitman County closed because of water over the roadway Thursday afternoon.

Staff writers Mike Prager and Alison Boggs contributed to this report.


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