Some relatively promising news this morning on the break-up flooding that’s been destroying buildings and sending people fleeing for higher ground along the Yukon River this month:
While the village of Tanana was still flooding, the water level has dropped about six feet since yesterday afternoon and hydrologists don’t expect serious flooding downriver in Ruby today.
Unlike upriver in Eagle, where the river ice was unusually thick, ice on the middle Yukon has been rotting or breaking up. Tributaries like the Kuyokuk River have been pumping it with water, lifting and shifting the ice, said National Weather Service hydrologist Ed Plumb in Fairbanks.
“We’re not expecting like catastrophic flooding that’s happened upriver to happen in the middle section (of the Yukon),” Plumb said.
That said, the Weather Service still had flooding warnings in place for Stevens Village, Rampart, Tanana and Ruby as of yesterday afternoon.
And lower Yukon River communities like Emmonak and Mountain Village certainly aren’t in the clear. In fact, that may be the next place to watch.
Down there, closer to the mouth of the river, the river ice is still thick and the weather is cool which creates a higher flood risk, Plumb said.
One of the river watch teams, which have been scouting the flooding and ice jams from the air, plans to head to the Lower Yukon next, said Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman for the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
"The report from Emmonak is that the ice there is still solid and that it's still winter.”
'One house fell in the river'
The Tanana flooding yesterday was the worst locals had seen in decades, Plumb said.
The new teacher housing flooded. The basement of the elder housing flooded.
“One house fell into the river,” Plumb said.
More than 70 people were evacuated and the river came within three feet of the record flooding levels of 1937, according to the Weather Service and the state.
“The ice is just so intimidating, the sound it makes,” Tanana evacuee Ginger Marks told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. “There’s this hissing, and every once in a while, ice colliding with ice.”
But last night, something in the jam downriver from Tanana shifted and the water began to drop.
In Ruby today, the water was still eight feet below flooding the village, Plumb said. Hydrologists don’t expect heavy flooding in the community, which slopes up away from the river, but say fish camps and cabins along the river in that area are at risk.
As for the Kuskokwim, Kwethluk was still flooding yesterday, where as of last night 20 to 30 people were staying at the local high school, according to the Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center in Anchorage.
Communities below Akiak like Akiachak, Bethel and Napakiak were still seeing minor flooding as of Tuesday, but the water levels were slowly dropping, said hydrologist Jim Coe.
In fact, the threat of break-up flooding in Bethel has passed, Coe said.
The ice there has moved down the Kuskokwim past the Johnson River – maybe seven miles downriver from Bethel – and into the flood plain, he said.