Experts 'preparing for the worst' as they monitor ice jam threat on the Platte

The weekend weather could be critical for flooding caused by ice jams but predicting that threat means more than just looking at frozen rivers.

Before measuring thickness of the frozen Platte, Papio NRD crew chief Pat McEvoy has to make sure they're not on thin ice. “Make sure it'll support a man or two," and a drill used to bore holes 25 feet apart and up to 100 feet out so the ice thickness can be measured.

The average thickness is 15 inches and the measurements will help NRD experts predict ice jam potential.

The Papio NRD’s John Winkler said, “This is probably one of the worst kind of conditions they've seen since probably 78, and that was a bad year. So we're expecting to have some problems and we're preparing for the worst, obviously hope for the best."

The Union Dike stands between the Platte and communities like Ginger Cove where Duane Prorok lives.

Prorok said, “I'm concerned about it but I wouldn't say worried about it. I'm glad they're keeping a close eye on it."

The concern for NRD experts now is not so much snow but rain.

Winkler said, “Just going to run off the frozen ground and snow and then start lifting the ice so that's when we start running into problems."

The NRD experts are asking people who live along the river to not only watch but listen for the breaking of the ice and call it in."

During the drilling, a mystery was uncovered. There are two layers of ice with water flowing in between but what does that mean for potential flooding.

McEvoy said, “Most of the time its solid so I don't know. I've never see it do like this before."

The measuring crew walks off the Platte River hoping against but preparing for ice jams like they have seen before.

The river watchers are hoping for a slow thaw so the ice will remain too thick for rain to push chunks into ice jams.

The Papio NRD will be monitoring all waterways in our area.