Frazil Ice Strikes Jackson

Dec 16, 2011

Anchor ice has been wreaking havoc on some Jackson residents and businesses this week. Also called frazil ice, it’s a rare phenomenon in which the river freezes from the bed up, so flowing water spills out from the sides of the waterway.

Teton County Emergency Management Coordinator Rich Ochs says Jackson’s Flat Creek is one of the few places in the country with prime conditions for anchor ice to form, winter after winter. Ochs says this year has been particularly tough because of the constant freezing temperatures.

“The heavy amount of snowfall that we got last year and the fact that the ground is still saturated really gave this water nowhere to go,” Ochs says. “It came up faster than we’ve ever seen before.”

Ochs says property owners have piled sandbags in doorways and near parking lots to prevent the spread of ice, but several homes and businesses have sustained damage anyway.  

“One of the biggest problems is ice. So, when the weather pattern looks like it’s gonna stick like this for a week or two and we see the water slowly rising, we’re forced to mechanically remove the ice using heavy equipment and things like that.”

Ochs says contractors have been drilling thermal wells to break up the ice in the river bed, but the residual melting contributes to the flooding.
The Teton Conservation District has been working with landowners to place boulders in the stream to prevent future anchor ice from forming.