Ice Jam and Flood

The Fox River has put on some spectacular floods in its time, but perhaps none were more newsworthy than the great ice gorge of 1952. A photographer from Chicago television station WNBQ-TV was flown over the gorge to film it and thousands of spectators flocked to Dayton to see what was happening. A slight bow appeared in the bridge due to the intense pressure against it by the slush ice. The bridge was closed to traffic when the gorge first formed, but later even pedestrians were not allowed on the bridge. When the ice subsided, the bridge was tested to be sure it was still usable.

A number of the houses on either side of the river at Dayton were submerged in the ice. The power house of the North Counties Hydro-Electric Company was out of commission due to several feet of water on the floor of the plant. The Red Cross opened an emergency shelter in the Dayton Women’s Club clubhouse to assist those displaced by the flood.

The Army Corps of Engineers was asked to assess the possibility of using dynamite to blow up the gorge, but the opinion of an expert was that the ice was too slushy and it might take a whole trainload of dynamite. The better choice was to let the rising temperature let the gorge break up gradually, not with a sudden break which would flood many of the low-lying homes along the river in Ottawa.

In a day or two, the river had dropped and the ice melted, but the cleanup for the flooded houses and power plant took weeks.

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