Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ice Jam on the River

The river runs free below the bridge

On our way to look for the Snowy Owls last weekend, we drove through the hamlet of West Montrose on the Grand River. Ontario's only covered bridge spans the river here and the area draws many tourists, especially as it is in the heart of Old Order Mennonite territory. There is an ice jam above the bridge that has caused some anxiety for home owners on the flood plain as the river has overflowed its banks almost to the road.

I have mentioned before that last year the river froze over quickly once winter came and it stayed that way until the ice broke up in March. This year we have had weekly variations in temperature, from very cold to above freezing every few days. The rivers are flowing higher and faster than usual. Our local newspaper described it this way.

Ice jam above the bridge

" ...conditions are ripe for the development of more ice that could add to a jam already blocking about 80 per cent of the river channel. Cold, flowing water and winds can combine to form what's called frazzle ice, which has a sticky consistency like porridge. The water is cold enough to freeze, but it's moving too quickly to form a sheet of ice."

There are some dams upstream that are being adjusted to decrease the flow of the water to this area. Tonight the temperatures are dropping below -20C, a snowstorm is forecast for Friday, and we may have rain later on the weekend. This brings another dangerous cycle of weather for those watching the ice.

On another note...this freeze/thaw winter has also caused an enormous "pot hole" problem on our roads. A driver has to watch the traffic and the roadway as the big, rim-crunching holes create an obstacle course. Ice is a powerful force in nature, and these small examples show how the large glaciers of the ice age had the ability to sculpt our landscape many years ago.


  1. Thanks for visiting. Your comment about the prices of things being cheaper today than in earlier years when ocmpared to salaries is true, I know.

    I remember a few years ago reading tht particularly about the price of gas. I paid 37 cents a gallon back in the late 60's.

    My son was talking with a friend and said he could remember when it was 99 cents a gallon back in '98

  2. Anonymous8:37 pm GMT-5

    We have had bad potholes also and this years weather has been much different as in years past!

  3. I have a b&w photo of that bridge circa 1969. Cuppa and I took a ride around one day while I was finishing up at U of G.

  4. That's a beautiful bridge! I love the color of it against the snow and river.

  5. Anonymous4:02 pm GMT-5

    I was very interested in your ice jam article. There was a similar situation in B.C. recently at the confluence of two rivers. It has caused a lot of damage to homes and businesses that were flooded. The dollar figure is astronomical.

  6. I sure hope this winter isn't a portent of things to come. Potholes - I can deal with. Glaciers - no thanks!

  7. The potholes...not many here but farther north we dodged them every few feet in the winter months.

    Take it easy on the ice, Ruth!

  8. Hope that ice dam doesn't cause any big flooding problems! They can be pretty scary when the rivers start running fast & high in the spring.
    Our roads and streets are really starting to deteriorate again too--the freeze/thaw cycle plays havoc with all of the paved and unpaved roads here in Minnesota.

  9. What a beautiful picture. I hope that there are no destructive ice jams. We suffer from them here, as well, some town flood routinely every 15 years or so. I'm worried about all the snow melting quickly but our rivers seem to be flowing open--unless that changes quickly we should just have high water and lots of mud to contend with.

  10. Beverly- Nice of you to drop by...

    Monarch- No one is complaining about global warming this winter

    AC- Yes, this is not far from Guelph. That is where we were headed. I saw it first in 1969 too, just before we moved to the area from Toronto.

    Rondi- It is a very picturesque bridge, even more so when the sun is shining. Frequently you can see a horse and buggy emerging from it.

    April- The main problem here is the fact that homes are built on the flood plain. There are a number of confluences along this river, but people haven't built on the plain.

    Cathy- You make me laugh! No glaciers for me either.

    Mary- The pot holes cannot be fixed properly when it is cold, or when they are filled with water. They are very bad this year here.

    Ruthie- I was on gravel roads on the weekend and felt like I was off roading in mud, washboard and holes. What an adventure.

    Beth- You have so much snow!!! The spring weather has to come gradually or there will be trouble with flooding.


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