Weather warm-up has local towns on lookout for floods, ice jams

EASTLAKE, Ohio - A warm up and rain in the forecast has many across northeast Ohio bracing for a big meltdown.

After days of dealing with dangerous subzero temperatures, first responders in several cities including Rocky River and Eastlake have begun preparing for possible flooding and ice jams.

It’s happened before, said Lt. Todd Harvey with the Eastlake Fire Department.

“We get flooding just with normal rain,” said Lt. Harvey. “But ice blocks up the river and makes it flood even more.”

The Chagrin River, Rocky River and Black River have all been known to cause problems as the ice begins to break apart, and tries to flow into a frozen Lake Erie  crushing docks, boats and anything in the way.

Firefighters have been warning people to stay off of the ice for days, but say now more than usual everyone needs to be careful.

“There is no safe ice, even in the coldest areas you can have a spot that didn’t freeze up,” said Lt. Harvey. “Especially on the river. The river’s moving and who knows where you’re going to pop back up.”

Eastlake firefighters have safety sleds and specialty suits to help with surface rescues and highly trained divers for subsurface ice rescues.

Monday, they inspected all of their equipment and ran practice dives in the frozen river.

Lt. Harvey says, the reverse 911 system will be used to alert residents in the event of widespread flooding, but he is encouraging everyone to be alert.