UPDATE: Nebraska’s worst ice jam since 1993

Posted By: Megan Conwaymconway@klkntv.com

UPDATE: John Winkler, general manager of Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources River says no explosives were needed Thursday morning to break the ice jam. Winkler says around 9:45 a.m. the ice broke free on its own. They will continue to monitor the thick ice until it empties into the Missouri River.

With a mild winter and temperatures in the 60s in January, one of the last things you’d think about is ice jams. On Tuesday an emergency had to be declared along the Platte River when an ice jam occurred, over a mile and a half long. 

“Typically, when you have this much open water ahead of it and behind it, it just pushes through, but for some reason this is not happening this year,” says John Winkler, general manager of Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources River.

The jam is near a levee that’s currently under construction. Winkler says that levee is protecting around 450 homes and buildings, and Lincoln and Omaha water pipelines.

In 1993, Lincoln Water Systems lost two major pipelines due to ice jams; pipelines that provide water for Lincoln. People were asked to conserve their water. Since then, lessons have been learned and better, stronger pipes have been put in.

“We’re very confident that we’ll be able to maintain water to the city and be safe water for sure,” says Steve Owen, Lincoln Water Systems.

Owen says they have 43 wells geographically spread out. If they have to shut down the ones on the Platte, they can draw water from other places. With the levee under construction, both officials agree the problem needs monitored and fixed as soon as possible. That’s why an explosives contractor is on their way.

“We need to take care of this now, we’re not going to wait and just hope it goes through. The longer you go, the more chance you have that levee weakening and eventually failing,” says Winkler.

There is one positive aspect from the ice jam.

“You’ll develop a thin later of fine sediments on the bottom of the river and whenever you can wash those fine sediments away, you’ve got more coarser gravels and so the water can go down to the well much quicker,” says Owen.

Winkler says they will monitor the thick ice until it empties down into the Missouri River. He says explosives will be used Thursday morning if nothing else changes.