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Montana officials warn about the danger of ice jams

Posted at 8:57 PM, Feb 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-21 23:07:38-05

HELENA – An ice jam on the Missouri River south of Townsend caused the emergency closing of York’s Island Fishing Access Site this week.

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) is cautioning people to be aware of ice jams and avoid any affected areas.

Ice jams have the greatest potential of occurring in the state from February through March.

Unlike open-water flooding that usually occurs in the spring and summer months, ice jam floods are less predictable and potentially more destructive given that they can happen at any point on a waterway.

According to the National Weather Service, Montana has the highest number of reported ice jams and ice jam-related deaths in the continental United States.

Residents living near a river or stream should develop a flood evacuation plan, keep extra drinking water on hand, and be prepared to transport valuables and animals.

People should never walk or drive a vehicle on unstable river ice.

“Flooding can happen quickly so it’s very unpredictable and in the case of ice jams, we never want the general public or anybody from the community to go out and try and walk on that ice,” said Worby McNamee, DNRC floodplain specialist.

McNamee said residents living near a river or stream should purchase flood insurance if they are not already covered.

“A big component of being safe is purchasing flood insurance,” explained McNamee, “and knowing that when you first purchase that insurance there’s usually a 30 day period in which it goes into effect.”

More information on flooding in the state can be found on the DNRC website.

-John Riley reporting for MTN News