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River ice begins to gather on Yellowstone River

Blocks of ice and debris float in the Yellowstone River in northeastern Montana as river ice breaks up. Glendive and surrounding areas are under a flood watch until Wednesday evening as warm temperatures break up ice and create potential ice jams along the river. 

Temperatures are rising and with them the threats of flooding around Glendive as ice moves down the Yellowstone River.

The National Weather Service has put in place until Wednesday evening a flood watch for Dawson and Richland counties, and specifically for the area around Glendive. 

Temperatures will climb about 10 degrees a day through Wednesday and "that'll help create the potential for ice to begin moving," said Tom Clemmons, a meteorologist in the Glasgow office of the National Weather Service. 

As more ice moves downriver it can stack up where the riverbanks narrow, blocking the flow of water and causing flooding to the area. 

"Based on temperatures and everything, ice jam conditions can go into early April," Clemmons said. 

Glendive's spot on a particular narrowing of the Yellowstone leaves it prone to flooding most years as ice begins to break up and flow in the spring. A section of the Yellowstone 5 miles downriver from Glendive where Deer Creek flows into the river is the area currently under watch. 

River levels around Glendive are currently 1 foot above flood stage, according to the National Weather Service. Officials saw no change on Monday to the current buildup of river ice. 

In a weather advisory published Monday afternoon, the National Weather Service warned area residents about quickly changing river conditions as temperatures rise. 

As the ice jam breaks up and blocks of ice begin to move it can cause "rapid fluctuations" in water levels, which can send backed-up ice and river water into the areas surrounding the Yellowstone. 

Officials have warned residents that ice-jam floods can happen quickly, with flood waters rising in an hour and lasting for days.

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Business Reporter

Business Reporter for the Billings Gazette.