Ice Jam Flooding Issues Continue Along Housatonic River in Kent

More resources were expected to arrive in Kent Tuesday after officials declared a local state of emergency due to ice jam flooding along the Housatonic River, and officials are looking for volunteers to help with the preparations.

Ice jams formed Saturday, causing the river to overflow and forcing road closures and home evacuations.

Housatonic River Ice Jam Flooding in Kent

Now the town is in contact with the US Army Corps of Engineers.

"There’s kind of a stagnant period now where the ice jam is frozen in place. It hasn’t moved. Water levels have receded but it’s one big ice barge right now. There’s no longer individual pieces of ice. It’s just all frozen together in one. What that has done over the past few days with the freezing temperatures- it’s given us time to now properly plan for this," State Rep. Brian Ohler said during a press conference on Tuesday.

NBC Connecticut spoke with the town’s emergency management director, Susie Rundall, who came down to check on the situation at the center of town, one of the two areas impacted by the flood waters.

Rundall said round the clock meetings are being held with local and state leaders.

She said they have plans in place, but for the time being they have to wait and see what happens.

"There is a plan, we’re just waiting for one flip of the coin to go one way or the other. Either it’s going to melt slowly or we’re going to have a big bang out here and it’s gonna go," Rundall said.

Right now officials are monitoring whether the ice will melt all at once, which would cause a rapid increase in the water level, or if they’ll see a gradual thaw.

Among the contingency plans discussed is using a construction crane and wrecking ball to dislodge the ice that sits a mile wide over the Housatonic River.

"If this ice jam stays for the next week we’re going to have to do something to break it up mechanically," explained Rep. Brian Ohler.

On top of the ongoing flood concerns, a storm moving in Tuesday is expected to drop anywhere between 6 to 10 inches of snow in the area.

Officials are not taking any chances and expect some emergency equipment to arrive Tuesday.

"We’re getting boats, hopefully, a hummer, we’ve got pumps, we’ve got about 20 pumps for pumping out cellars," Rundall said.

A trailer of cots was dropped off at the Kent Senior Center, which will become an emergency shelter if needed. Around two dozen homes are in the danger zone.

The town also also has 5,000 sandbags that they’re looking for volunteers to help fill at the town garage.

Rundall told NBC Connecticut her biggest concern is people walking on the ice because it is so unstable and unpredictable. She said she’s already seen people walking their dogs on the ice.

Right now roads leading up to the Housatonic River and the surrounding recreational areas are closed to the public. Police will be out here patrolling the ice jams in the day ahead. Route 7 was closed, but it has reopened between Route 341 and Bulls Bridge. 

There’s no timetable for when officials would plan to try to break the ice. But, if and when they do move forward it will be a carefully coordinated effort with the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, starting at the south end of the ice jam and working north.

They don’t want it to break all at once because that would spell disaster for towns like Gaylordsville and New Milford downstream.

Town officials are in contact with the town leaders in Gaylordsville and New Milford.

The uncertainty has led Kent School, a private boarding school in town, to send its 580 students home. The school will remain closed through Sunday. The Kent Center School will reopen on Thursday and Friday.

Students at the Kent School were sent home due to flooding on campus after an ice jam sent waters up over the banks of the Housatonic River.
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