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Warm weather welcome, but brings worries

By DOUG ALDEN
New Hampshire Union Leader

February 19. 2018 10:56PM

New Boston Fire Chief Dan MacDonald said the ice jam south of the Youth Center bridge (New Boston side), above, has largely broken up, while the jam north of the bridge (Goffstown side) remains intact. (Courtesy of New Boston Fire Department)



MANCHESTER — Rising temperatures are raising concerns about ice in New Hampshire.

Forecasters are calling for highs from the mid-40s to nearly 60 degrees today and temperatures Wednesday in the 60s throughout the state — with southern areas pushing 70 degrees.

“It’s just a natural swing in the atmosphere, but that’s well above normal for this time of year,” said Eric Sinsabaugh, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.

Although the warm spell is expected to break on Thursday, officials throughout the Granite State will be keeping an eye on ice conditions on lakes and water levels in rivers and streams.

Lt. Bradley Morse of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department said this kind of swing in the weather makes it essential that people be cautious when venturing out onto the ice.

“Relatively speaking, we have really good ice out there,” Morse said Monday. “But with this warm air coming in, what tends to happen is the shore tends to thin out and if you have a bubbler or a brook or river coming into a lake, that gets really thin really fast.”

Pressure ridges cause gaps in the ice, Morse said. The driver of a Jeep Liberty learned this Sunday night when he drove onto Lake Winnipesaukee and the Jeep broke through the ice and sank in about 10 feet of water near Stonedam Island. The driver escaped unharmed.

“He hit a pressure ridge and went right through. Now it’s on the bottom of the lake,” Morse said of the Jeep. “The ice is variable and it always changes, so just be aware of that.”

Sled dog race canceled

The ice thickness on Chocorua Lake is fine, but the warm spell in the forecast pushed organizers of the annual Tamworth Sled Dog race to cancel this weekend’s races, which were already postponed in January when heavy rain left the race trails in no condition for dog sleds or snowmobiles.

“We really haven’t recovered from that as far as trails go,” said Brian Cutter, president of the Tamworth Outing Club, which puts the race on along with the New England Sled Dog Club.

Cutter said the weather has washed out the popular event for the third straight year.

“There are plenty of teams that want to race,” Cutter said. “It’s just a question of the weather cooperating.”

Ice jam concerns

Sinsabaugh said ice jams will also be a concern on rivers and streams when the temperatures climb in the next few days.

Wednesday’s forecast also calls for a fairly brisk winds, which combined with the warm temperatures act like a “reverse wind-chill effect,” Sinsabaugh said.

“That’s going to torch off a lot of snow during the course of the day,” Sinsabaugh said. “That runoff may lead to some ice movement on area rivers, so we’ll be monitoring that fairly closely over the next day or two just to make sure we don’t have any problems.”

In New Boston, where an ice jam on the Piscataquog River stretched for more than a half-mile north of the center of town a few weeks ago, Fire Chief Dan MacDonald said Monday the conditions improved significantly over the weekend.

MacDonald, who is also the town’s emergency management director, said Monday that there is some open water visible just south of downtown and the ice south of a bridge near the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds has also reduced by quite a bit.

“It’s managed to be a very gradual reduction in the volume of ice,” MacDonald said.

dalden@unionleader.com


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