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River watchers worry about flooding on Susquehanna

Updated: Thursday, February 20 2014, 05:54 AM CST
Reported by: Kyle Rogers

HARRISBURG -- As temperatures are predicted to rise in the coming days, Harrisburg fire officials are not concerned for flooding along the frozen stretch of the Susquehanna River.

Acting Fire Chief Brian Enterline said the snow-covered ice surrounding City Island and towards the South Bridge is about 12 to 16 inches thick. 

"Don't panic. Please don't panic," said Enterline. 

Closely monitoring the icy river, Enterline has been working with the National Weather Service as well as utilizing historic records.

The acting fire chief reported the river stage is just below five feet on Tuesday afternoon; flood stage is at 17 feet. If the levels reach 11 feet, action is taken. 

"Certain people are notified to move assets off of City Island," Enterline said. "Those in low lying parts of the city will be notified."

While Enterline does not predict major flooding in the coming days, he stressed the city is prepared to notify residents with proper amount of time. 

Meanwhile, ice observers are scattered throughout the length of the Susquehanna River. 

Alan Knoche of Lower Swatara Township is one of the dozens of river observers with the National Weather Service.

"We're kind of the ground truth," Knoche said, while overlooking the Susquehanna River below Harrisburg International Airport's runway. "Our reports compared to what they're seeing on their instruments to see if it's accurate." 

Noting the extreme wintry season within the past two months, Knoche has seen similar ice jams before in years past. While he does not expect major flooding either, he said if certain ice dams break, it was the potential to those living along the area.  

"When it starts to move and potentially jam, that's when we have a chance of backups," he said.

Recording his observations through a website by the National Weather Service, the weather enthusiast visits the river near Highspire once or twice a week.
"We're all hoping this will kind of just melt away and go down into the Chesapeake Bay." 

A hydrologist with the National Weather Service does not anticipate major flooding along the Susquehanna River through Harrisburg, observers are closely monitoring local creeks and steams that flow out of the river for possible flooding. River watchers worry about flooding on Susquehanna

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