Extreme Warm-up To Bring New Problems After The Polar Vortex

File photo of ice in Lake Erie. (Tony Ganzer / ideastream)
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Even though Cleveland was colder than the North Pole (Alaska, at least) on account of the Polar Vortex, the weather is going to shift dramatically warmer in a matter of days.

The National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts highs of 40, 50, and 55 on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday respectively, upwards of 50 degrees warmer than the depths of the arctic blast.

"Yes, it is bananas, but that's also what we get for living at such a northern latitude, but it is anomalously cold, I'll give you that," says Sarah Jamison, service hydrologist for NWS in Cleveland. "We often do see dramatic swings when you have one extreme in temperature to the next, but this does rate pretty highly on that kind of range swinging back up into the 50s."

Ice Cold to 'Warm'

The recent arctic air created flash freezing conditions for Lake Erie, and all of the region's rivers and streams. 

"When we have this quick turn-around in the temperatures," Jamison says, "what's going to happen is we're going to lose probably all of our snow-pack, things are going to probably get a little bit muddy outside, and we're going to get a lot of that ice on the river starting to jam up."

Jamison says residents who have in the past experienced ice dam flooding should probably prepare for the warm-up next week.

The ice will probably be one to two feet thick by the weekend, she says, and warming temperatures, whether with rain or not, will cause rivers to elevate and ice to break up and form a dam.

"That's going to build up the water pressure, and can flood areas upstream of a jam or downstream once it reaches that point where it just kind of collapses," Jamison says. "These are very chaotic hazards because they're nearly impossible to predict, [and] they're hard to identify."

Jamison says experts are very reliant on residents to report such ice jams or dams, so then NWS can spread the word to everyone else.

One More Thing

If the ice jams weren't enough, the quick freeze and quicker thaw will cause other issues, from water line breaks to potholes.

"Something we're not familiar with in this area," Jamison says tongue-in-cheek.

Once the warmer temperatures arrive Jamison encourages people to get outside, get some fresh air, but also keep an eye on the rivers as they take on the ice.

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