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Coast Guard Sending Boats to Break Up Ice Jam, Alleviate Flooding

The ice stretched for at least one mile and covered nearly every inch of the river from bank to bank

By Vince Lattanzio, David Chang and Dan Stamm
|  Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014  |  Updated 12:10 PM EDT
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An ice jam along the Delaware River has residents and officials in two states worried.

NBC10 - Christine Maddela

An ice jam along the Delaware River has residents and officials in two states worried.

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Amazing Footage of Frozen Delaware River

NBC10's SkyForce10 is over the icy Delaware River in Trenton.

Ice Jam on the Delaware

Cold temps cause ice to back up near Trenton.
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Boats are heading up the Delaware River to combat a mile-long ice jam that is causing flooding and has forecasters concerned the situation will get worse before getting better.

The Coast Guard is sending three boats to "break up ice" Thursday morning after flooding that began Wednesday night forced road closures throughout the region.

Large pieces of ice first bunched together in the water around Trenton, N.J. and Bucks County, Pa. on Wednesday as temperatures in the teens continued to make conditions ripe for freezing.

"It's not one solid sheet of ice across the top, you can see that it's many large chunks and it just goes...as far as the eye can see to the north," SkyForce10 photojournalist Jeremy Haas said looking at the jam from the air.

The ice stretched for at least one mile and covered nearly every inch of the river from bank to bank -- which is an average distance of about 900 feet wide at that point. In some areas, the ice pieces were pushing out of the river and onto the riverbank.

Water, displaced by the ice, spilled out of the Delaware and began to creep onto roadways and into structures.

The New Jersey Statehouse garage, some southbound lanes on Route 29 in Trenton, N.J. and Route 32 north in Yardley, Pa., are already closed because of flooding.

A overflow of water also rushed out onto Route 32 (River Road), in Lower Makefield Township, Pa. on Wednesday evening. The road is now closed between Black Rock Road and Trenton Avenue. Officials say the closure will be in effect until flood waters from the Delaware River have receded from the highway.

Worried that the flooding will get worse as the ice begins to melt with temperatures rising on Thursday, forecasters with the National Weather Service issued a Flood Warning for parts of Mercer County in N.J. and Bucks County in Pa. until 1 p.m. on Thursday.

The NWS also extended a Flash Flood Watch for areas downstream from the ice jam -- including Philadelphia -- until 10 p.m.

"When this ice jam breaks, there may be enough water behind the jam to cause flash flooding downstream," the NWS alert read.

Forecasters say the river is at 19.3 feet and fluctuating below the flood stage of 20 feet. The river is expected to fluctuate throughout the day.

About 30 miles downstream in Philadelphia, the Delaware was still dotted with large sheets and chunks of ice. However, the ice was not packed together like in the Trenton area.

An ice jam was also reported along the Lehigh River just downstream from the Old Glendon Bridge in Easton, Pa. The jam caused water and ice to cover parts of Lehigh Drive. Officials say the jam should remain in place at least until Thursday morning. They warn all residents and businesses along the Lehigh River from the Old Glendon Bridge downstream to its confluence with the Delaware River to remain alert for "rapidly changing conditions" until the jam clears the area over the next few days.

The ice along the river is unstable and dangerous. Do not drive your vehicle into areas where the water covers the roadway. Also avoid touching, standing or going near the ice.

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