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Posted on: January 20, 2023

West Fargo Fire Department warns of unsafe ice conditions on the Sheyenne River

West Fargo Fire Department warns of unsafe ice conditions on the Sheyenne River (PNG)

The West Fargo Fire Department reminds residents to stay safe by staying off the Sheyenne River as water levels are expected to rise. On Monday, Jan. 23 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is increasing outflow from Baldhill Dam from 130 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 275 cfs. The water released from Baldhill Dam enters the Sheyenne River as it travels through West Fargo which causes unsafe ice conditions. Even a relatively small change in water levels can disrupt ice formation with little to no visible signs on the surface. 

“There is no such thing as safe ice,” said Dan Fuller, West Fargo Fire Chief. “Due to constantly changing conditions, the Sheyenne River should never be walked on or used for recreational activities after it ices over.”

Snowpack recently measured in the Baldhill Dam drainage area indicates an increased potential for spring flooding. The change in the outflow will lower the reservoir to create additional room for spring runoff. Additional adjustments may occur as the spring melt approaches.

First appearances can be deceiving when it comes to ice forming on bodies of water. It may look as though it is frozen solid, but there is no guarantee the ice will be thick enough to withstand extra weight.

The integrity and strength of ice on rivers are lowered by several factors, including layers of water flowing under the ice, daily temperature changes and changes to the speed of water flowing under the ice. Snow can also insulate the ice, impacting ice formation and hiding signs of unsafe ice. 

If an individual does fall through the ice, call 911 immediately. The West Fargo Fire Department has specialized equipment and training to respond safely to these situations.

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