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Published December 17, 2010, 08:46 AM

Ice Formations Jam Up Otter Tail River

Wilkin Co., Minn. (WDAY TV)- There is bad news from the Otter Tail River near Fergus Falls. A phenomenon that usually happens a month earlier, is, and will, cause problems deep into winter.

Wilkin Co., Minn. (WDAY TV)- There is bad news from the Otter Tail River near Fergus Falls. A phenomenon that usually happens a month earlier, is, and will, cause problems deep into winter.

It's called “frazil ice”, and a flooding expert says it could last all winter long in Wilkin and Otter Tail counties.

The slushy-looking pieces in the river are called frazil ice. Former Wilkin County Engineer Tom Richels says Wilkin and Otter tail counties have the perfect recipe for it to form.

Most importantly, a high velocity of water which keeps stretches of rivers from freezing over.

"It's real sticky, Frazil ice is real sticky," said Richels.

The ice forms in these open stretches when temperatures are around zero degrees or colder.

Richels says the chunks combine forming a plug in the river. It acts as an ice jam, flooding homes and property.

"There's really nothing that can be done about it, they've tried a number of things, explosives and backhoes and thermal heating and a number of different things, and really nothing works to cure the problem you just have to deal with it,” said Richels.

With the overwhelming amount of water in the Otter Tail watershed district, Richels, along with leaders from Otter Tail, believe this frazil ice is going to be a problem throughout winter.

Richels say the water pressure will build up behind the jams and often break up the frazil ice, it then usually just finds a new place further down stream to stick together and block the flow again.

So far, no homes have been affected from Jams in Wilkin County.

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