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Ice Jam on the Hudson River, Cold Spring, c. 1900

Building wrecked by ice jam
New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_D47_HuC
Document Description
A building damaged by an ice jam at Cold Spring along the Hudson River, circa 1900.
How do ice jams occur?
What type of damage is being caused by the ice jam in this photograph?
Are ice jams unusual occurrences in New York State?
Historical Challenges
When was the last time that an ice jam in New York State was declared a major disaster by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Convert the average Fahrenheit temperatures stated above into Celsius.

Science: Research the average high and low temperatures of some of the major regions in New York State.
English Language Arts: Imagine you are traveling down the Hudson River by boat. You encounter a huge ice jam and are going to be stuck for twenty-four hours. What do you do? Write down what you do to keep busy hour by hour.
Lourie, Peter. Hudson River: An Adventure from the Mountains to the Sea. Honesdale, PA: Caroline House, 1992. ISBN: 1878093010

Historical Context
Average temperatures in January in New York State are typically below freezing: 16°F in the Adirondack Mountains, 26°F along Lake Erie and in the lower Hudson Valley, and 31°F on Long Island.  These cold temperatures cause ice to form on rivers and lakes.

Ice jams result when there is a quick thaw.  The ice that has formed across the top of the water then breaks into large pieces and cannot move quickly with the current of the river.  Some of the pieces can get caught on the banks of the river, and then the pieces start to pile up, often causing damage and flooding.

Essential Question
How does geography influence human settlement patterns and economic systems?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the influence of this recurring event on New York's settlement and economy.