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Ice jam causes river levels to rise

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Sunday afternoon (April 2) brought welcome news as Town of Swan River crews along with residents and volunteers battled rising waters this past weekend.

Ice was flowing on the Swan River on Friday but soon collected and lodged itself in a portion of the river north of Ross Street.

“The jam caused the river to rise, threatening around 12-15 houses in low-lying areas along Duncan Crescent,” said Town of Swan River Mayor Glen McKenzie.

“At 9:30 p.m. on Saturday evening we declared a local state of emergency which allowed us the power to get the resources necessary to deal with the situation.”

The Province was contacted and a Tiger Dam was brought in to one location but the remaining areas needed to be sandbagged.

“Local residents and volunteers started sandbagging over the course of the night and, as the river continued to rise, we brought in some heavy equipment to deal with the jam,” McKenzie said.

“At about 1:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon the equipment was able to dislodge the ice jam and the river rapidly returned to season levels.”

The actual length of the ice jam, as measured on Google Earth, was 1.8 kilometres.

“The guys on the equipment said it was almost like a big puzzle,” said McKenzie. “They were working at a certain piece of ice and when they got it released there was a rush of water and things took off.”

McKenzie noted that in all his career as mayor he has never had to deal with a situation where a flood was being caused by an ice jam.

“We’ve had many occasions where heavy snowfall in the winter combined with fast melting conditions in the spring have brought the river up,” he said. “I’ve been told this has been an issue before, many years back, but not in my time.”

McKenzie recognized the many councillors, Town staff, fire department members and volunteers who banded together.

“It’s a tribute to the property owners and the community volunteers that stepped up to help their neighbours and friends,” he concluded.

As the river receded, large piles of ice were deposited along the shore lines, left to melt away in the warmth expected in the next few days.