MILTON — With 80 to 90 percent of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River iced over, meteorologists will be keeping a close eye on the pace in which the ice melts.
“We do have a very solid and a very widespread ice cover on the local rivers,” Aaron Tyburski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in State College, said. “That can be a bad thing, but not necessarily.”
Problems could arise if there is a rapid warm up.
“If we get a big meltdown, accompanied by rain... that’s when we see the ice jam problems,” Tyburski said. “All the ice tries to go at one time and it just can’t do it. That’s when we see the water back up behind it.”
If the weather turns warm more slowly, the story could be much different.
“With a slow, methodical melt of the ice, the impact should be minimal,” Tyburski said. “It’s something we keep an eye on.”
Tyburski said it’s still too early to determine if there will be a rapid warm up.
“For this week, we don’t see any appreciable temperatures above freezing,” he said. “We might get close to freezing on Wednesday, but that would be for just a short period of time... We don’t expect any melt this week.”
Temperatures could warm slightly next week.
“What happens beyond that would be the wild card in the equation,” Tyburski said.
In Lycoming County, Tyburski said 100 percent of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River is frozen. Throughout the branch, the percentage varies from 80 to 100 percent.
While the river appears to be frozen across, Tyburski cautioned residents to not assume that it is safe to walk across the river.
“You really don’t know how thick the ice is,” he said. “The water under it is moving. If there is an area that is not as thick, it could be eroded underneath.”
Tyburski stressed that the thickness of the ice varies based on the depth of the channel, how much water is flowing underneath and how much sunlight has struck certain sections of the river.
“It could be very dangerous to try to walk across any of the rivers, even though they appear to be frozen,” Tyburski said.
Highs this week are expected to only reach into the upper 20s or low 30s.
Temperatures are forecast to break the freezing mark on Sunday, with a high of 37. Monday’s high is projected to be 41.
The next winter storm could hit Tuesday, March 3, with forecasts calling for snow turning to a wintery mix.
Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or email email@example.com.