Wheeling-Ohio County Emergency Management Director Lou Vargo is asking those who live near creeks and streams to keep an eye out for possible ice jams and call 911 if they see flooding start to occur.
Vargo said with the weather forecasted to warm up during the weekend, emergency officials also will be keeping an eye on the streams.
"These are the exact same conditions we had a couple weeks ago," Vargo said. "Anytime we have ice on the creeks there is the potential for flooding."
Photo by Shelley Hanson
Ducks swim and congregate near a sign posted at Wheeling Park’s Good Lake warning people against walking onto the lake’s frozen surface.
Two weeks ago, temperatures warmed into the 40s and slowly melted the ice. Then it got cold again, refreezing the water. That time, the ice cleared and no flash flooding occurred, he said.
"When ice starts moving and hits a place and jams, we always encourage people ... to call us immediately. They are our best eyes and ears out there - they know what's going on. If you start seeing ice jams and water backing up, call 911. That's when we have flash flooding. If it's overflowing the creek banks, absolutely call 911," Vargo said.
Marshall County Emergency Management Director Tom Hart believes the gradual increase in temperature will allow the ice to melt more slowly. There is one past ice jam that stands out in Hart's memory. In the Rosby area, Hart and first responders were upstream of a jam when they heard it crack.
"It sounded like a cannon going off when it broke loose," Hart said, adding large chunks of ice were pushed up onto the road.
Hart said when it comes to jams, it is best if people leave them alone.
"Most of the time it's better to let Mother Nature run its course. On the larger creeks and streams, once an ice jam breaks loose it can be very dangerous. ... We don't want anyone getting hurt trying to remove it themselves," Hart said.
Hart said he also is keeping an eye on creeks and streams with the pending warmer weather.
Meanwhile, there have been reports of people trying to walk on the ice on the river. Vargo said those who do so risk hypothermia or becoming trapped underneath the ice if they fall through.
"Please don't - it's a very dangerous thing to do. You never know what the thickness is. In one step it could be less dense. ... The ice is not that thick to support a person's weight," he said.
"It also puts our first responders in danger during a rescue. The Wheeling Fire Department has an excellent swift water rescue team, but prevention is the best thing. You are really risking your life in doing that," Vargo added.