State of emergency declared in Kent due to ice jams, flooding - WFSB 3 Connecticut

State of emergency declared in Kent due to ice jams, flooding

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One of two reported ice jams on the Housatonic River in Kent prompted evacuations starting on Saturday. (WFSB) One of two reported ice jams on the Housatonic River in Kent prompted evacuations starting on Saturday. (WFSB)
KENT, CT (WFSB) -

A state of emergency was issued for the town of Kent due to ice jams in the Housatonic River that are causing flooding.

Two ice jams on the Housatonic River led to evacuations and flooded homes over the weekend, according to officials.

"What we're dealing with now happened in three days," Rep. Brian Ohler said.

Ohler said the depth of the jams could be up to 12 feet, something the town has not experienced before.

"This is a phenomenon that we've never seen in the town of Kent," Ohler said. 

Route 7 remains closed in the area and there's no time frame for when it could reopen.

”If anyone tries to negotiate these roads or if they try to get onto this ice jam, mother nature is unpredictable," Ohler said.

For real-time traffic updates, check the Channel 3 traffic map here.

Three homes had to evacuate. There are about 20 homes between Route 341 and Bulls Bridge that are on alert.

"This is a very dangerous situation. The ice is unpredictable," Ohler said. "Mother Nature in unpredictable and we need the public's cooperation right now." 

A flood warning remains in effect for not only Litchfield County, but Hartford, Middlesex and New London counties.

According to police, 520 boarding students at the Kent School were sent home until Sunday. Another 60 are local and simply stayed home.

"Dorms are frozen too. There's water inside some school houses," Kent School student Victor Kang, of South Korea, said. 

Jeff Cataldo, the school's business manager and chief financial officer, said officials have been assessing the Housatonic River daily and communicating with parents.

"We are not sure how much more water the campus will take and because of that unpredictability, it's in the best interest of the school based on safety first to make sure students leave campus and return to their homes," Cataldo said. 

The campus flooded Saturday with the rain and warm temperatures, only to have it all refreeze. 

“It is unbelievable," said Randy Hobbs, who is a teacher at Kent School, said. "There's no question you feel humble when you see events like that take place and there's nothing you can do about it.”

As for the students at Kent School, they won't return until at least next Monday.

"Looking out from the dorms and you just see a lake where there were soccer fields," Kent School student Xander Carey from California said. 

Channel 3 put Drone 3 in the area to take a look at the ice logged river. See the video here.

The fire department said it is on alert and has met with town and state officials to come up with a plan in case more flooding occurs. Officials continue to meet on a daily basis.

One of the jams is along Skiff Mountain Road, just north of Kent School.

"There's a lot of thick ice here that's all backed up," Brandon Wescott, of Torrington, said.  

Town officials held a meeting on Sunday night to make their flooding plan in case the ice thaws. 

People who live in the area told Channel 3 that they've seen ice jams along the river before, but nothing quite like this. The Housatonic River freezes over nearly every year, leading to a local tradition.

"There's an ice watch every year for the volunteer fire department," Jacy Wollenberg said. 

The ice watch is a popular fundraiser. People take guesses as to when the ice will break each spring. 

 Kent residents told Channel 3 they are hoping for a gradual thaw to prevent further flooding.

As if that wasn't enough, some residents were dealing with brown water. Officials at a nearby sewer plant said they are looking into it.

"The health department was called because we have water and sewer in Kent, not all small towns do and we also have on the outskirts of town many wells and septic systems that are in danger with the river overflowing," Kent First Selectman Bruce Adams said.

People are not allowed on the ice at all and environmental police are patrolling to make sure everyone stays safe. Local leaders are keeping close watch on the river level and using the clearance under the bridge as a barometer. It's rising which has them concerned.

Kent's fire chief said his department plans on dealing with the effects of the ice jams for days. He also said New Milford is keeping a close eye on the situation because it could be next.

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