ALTAI TERRITORY, RUSSIA APRIL 2, 2021: Military engineers conduct an ice blasting operation on the Biya River, Biysky District, eastern part of the region. (Photo/Kirill Kukhmar/TASS)
Rounds of ice and river water eruptions were recorded on camera in parts of south-central Russia last week. But what looks like a dazzling water fountain show is actually a strategic operation to prevent major flooding in nearby towns.
The ice blasting event along the Biya River in southern Siberia was carried out by officials as a preemptive strike to prevent severe flooding as temperatures begin to rise across the region.
Operations in the Soltonsky District took place on Thursday, with another round occurring in the Biysky District on Friday. Military engineers placed dynamite along sections of the Biya River to help break the ice.
Ice blasting operations have been assigned to this portion of Russia as officials warn that above-normal snow levels in the northern branches of the Biya and Katun rivers could cause flooding in the event of a quick warmup.
ALTAI TERRITORY, RUSSIA APRIL 1, 2021: Military engineers prepare for an ice blasting operation on the Biya River, Biysky District, eastern part of the region. The Russian Emergencies Ministry estimates the amount of snow accumulated in the upper reaches of the Biya and Katun Rivers to be three times the norm, which in case of a warm spell constitutes a risk of flooding for the nearby population of 4,000 in Biysky District as well as a number of local infrastructure facilities. (Photo/Kirill Kukhmar/TASS)
Snow depths of the northern sections of the Biya and Katun rivers in central Russia are around 20-30 inches (50-70 cm). According to the BBC, this is three times higher than typical snow depth levels in this region.
Near the Soltonsky District, the snow depth is 25-35 inches (65-90 cm).
As spring returns to the Northern Hemisphere and temperatures begin to climb above freezing in the notoriously cold region of Siberia, the snow and ice will soon begin to melt.
High temperatures in Barnaul, a town located near the Soltonsky District, already climbed into the upper 30s and lower 40s F (2-7 C) during March.
If left to its own devices, the ice covering the rivers can break apart and become stuck, causing ice jams that can send river water and snowmelt into nearby towns. To avoid this, explosives can be used to break the ice into smaller pieces that are less likely to become lodged along the river's edges, according to a 2019 Moscow Times article.
ALTAI TERRITORY, RUSSIA APRIL 2, 2021: An ice blasting operation takes place on the Biya River, Biysky District, eastern part of the region. The Russian Emergencies Ministry estimates the amount of snow accumulated in the upper reaches of the Biya and Katun Rivers to be three times the norm, which in case of a warm spell constitutes a risk of flooding for the nearby population of 4,000 in Biysky District as well as a number of local infrastructure facilities. (Photo/Kirill Kukhmar/TASS)
Russia isn't the only country that utilizes ice blasting to prevent ice jam flooding in the spring. In Canada, the capital city of Ottawa holds an annual ice blasting event to prevent ice from jamming near a low bridge on the river that runs through the center of the city.
Efforts to eliminate ice jams have been carried out along the Ottawa River since the 1880s, a city spokeswoman told the BBC, adding that historical records show numerous floods have been blamed on ice jams in the city.
In late April of 2020, nearly 15,000 residents were forced to evacuate from their homes in Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, after an ice jam almost 16 miles (25 km) long sent floodwaters into the town.
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