‘Tsunami’ Of Ice Wreaks Havoc On Alaskan Town

by
alaska430Alaska State Troopers photo

May 9, 2009

High temperatures in Alaska have caused an unusually fast spring melt causing flooding that has all but destroyed the Yukon community of Eagle Village.

Dan Bross had this report on KUAC that was later picked up on NPR.

All Things Considered, May 8, 2009 · Temperatures in some parts of Alaska soared into the 70s this week, causing a rapid “melt-out” of ice and snow along the Yukon River and unprecedented flooding that nearly wiped out the small community of Eagle.

The historic gold rush outpost sits on the upper reaches of the Yukon River on the eastern edge of Alaska, along the border with Canada.

“The Front Street buildings, the store, the museum, the shop, some houses and storage buildings all have been basically destroyed,” says resident John Borg, 41.

An aerial view shows at least two dozen buildings submerged in a sea of car-sized ice chunks and 30 feet of muddy floodwater on Tuesday.

There is also flooding in Ft. Yukon and Circle that is now being reported by Tim Mowry at Newsminer.com.

It appeared the “wall” of water that was released by the ice jam in Eagle on Monday night passed through Circle on Tuesday morning and was on its way to Fort Yukon, said Ed Plumb, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Fairbanks.

The “breakup front,” as weather officials called it, was about 20 miles upstream of Fort Yukon and moving downriver, Plumb said.

It appeared the “wall” of water that was released by the ice jam in Eagle on Monday night passed through Circle on Tuesday morning and was on its way to Fort Yukon, said Ed Plumb, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Fairbanks.

The “breakup front,” as weather officials called it, was about 20 miles upstream of Fort Yukon and moving downriver, Plumb said.

It appeared the “wall” of water that was released by the ice jam in Eagle on Monday night passed through Circle on Tuesday morning and was on its way to Fort Yukon, said Ed Plumb, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Fairbanks.

The “breakup front,” as weather officials called it, was about 20 miles upstream of Fort Yukon and moving downriver, Plumb said.

Yukon River Flood Statement from the National Weather Service in Fairbanks

Kuskoquim River Flood Advisory from the National Weather Service in Anchorage

Anonymous Bloggers is deeply concerned about the flooding along the Yukon. We would like anyone in contact with folks in the area to leave a comment describing thier situation.

If you have ideas or more information about ways we can help, please leave a comment. Brainstorming in the blogosphere helped us aid Nunam Iqua, Pilot Point, Ugashik and Alakanuk. We want to be of assistance in this crisis too!

So far we know the Red Cross in Fairbanks is accepting donations for Eagle. Everts Air (a local air freight/fuel company) is donating planes/pilots/crew to get goods up to Eagle and just did a 10,500 pound drop yesterday.

The Fairbanks Red Cross can be reached at (907) 456-5937; the Alaska State Homeland Security Department is also on the ground, coordinating from Anchorage (907) 428-7286.

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8 Responses to “‘Tsunami’ Of Ice Wreaks Havoc On Alaskan Town”

  1. Secret TalkerΔ Says:

    Thanks for posting about this treacherous problem. I have no special helpful ideas right now. I am ,however, wondering if there are shelters in place for the folks in this area. I wonder how the families get in touch with their loved ones who are elsewhere….anyone know if there are lists for families who are looking for news?
    Are there evacuation plans for people in threatened places?

    Thanks-information is most welcome!

  2. alaskapi Says:

    tigerwine-
    There’s a post on Progressive Alaska with a comment today from someone in Bethel area. SOUNDS like they are doing ok for now and may well miss out on bad flooding.
    Best wishes to Yukonbushgrma if and when you are able to pass on the word.
    Bless the Park Service and everyone out there helping…
    Thanks for coming by… sitting in Southeast it’s awfully hard to know what is going on .
    We are such a huge state…

  3. Mark Springer Says:

    Please keep in mind that the “Eagle Village” that got destroyed by the Yukon River breakup and flood was the OLD village, which was a couple of miles upriver from Eagle City. Go to Google Maps and type in Eagle, Alaska and you will see how the communities are laid out.
    The Old Village is past the airport, and the NEW Village is WAYYY past the airport and from all I have heard is high and dry. Yes, there were a few people living in the Old Village who lost what they couldn’t run with.
    Uptown, the front side of Eagle City got hit hard. Eagle City is really an Alaskan treasure in my book for its historical significance and natural beauty. But Eagle people are tough!
    The response from the State and the Federal government is just as expected. The State of Alaska runs an aggressive program of flood preparedness and seasonal surveillance. Ever wonder what a hydrologist does? They measure snowpack and ice thickness and make flood predictions! And they HAVE been on the job, as they are every year.
    As far as people staying in touch with each other, please, those of you who might not be too familiar with the infrastructure of Alaska, there are more than enough phones and email accounts to go around. Unless a family is living out in the woods (as were a couple who were rescued by a Park Service contract helo near Eagle) everyone is staying in touch.
    Kids, Moms and Elders who are sheltering in Fairbanks from other Yukon villages (notably Beaver) are staying with friends and family there.
    Now, here in Bethel the ice has been moving. The Kuskokwim River is bank full with heavy ice but we are off the main stem so there are even money bets on how wet we really will get.
    The Tripod went out overnight (someone is lucky!) but we have a decent looking ice jam right in front of town. We do have a couple of low lying areas that will be impacted depending on how high he water gets.
    All along the Kuskokwim the water is high, higher than usual, yes, but nothing nobody has ever seen before. Certainly not the 40 foot high they got in Eagle.
    The fact is, there is NOTHING you can do to prevent a flood. If its gonna happen, its gonna happen. The nature of topography along Alaska’s rivers is that if it doesn’t come in from the front, it might snealk around the back.
    Emmonak has been hit hard in past year, as has Alakanuk and Nunam Iqua. A lot of National Flood Insurance has been sold there over the years! The communities, again, are working hand in hand with the State Division of Emergency Services on preparation, warning, mitigation and recovery planning. It’s just something we all have to deal with here in Rural Alaska! Its the price we pay for living in Paradise :)
    Quyana!
    MS

  4. alaskapi Says:

    Mark- Thanks for stopping by! You were the commenter I saw over the way at Progressive Alaska.
    Flooding is indeed a normal non-avoidable occurrance along the Yukon and surrounding rivers this time of year. I think a lot of folks from Outside don’t know about the state’s program to monitor and prepare for flooding. Heck, a lot of instate folks don’t…
    From the bits of news making it out to rest of state it sounds like immediate needs assessments and aid are well under way.
    Way too soon for much else… interim and long range plans are a ways off.
    I think we are all concerned that adequate safe water and needed supplies are available for Eagle and any community along the rivers . Do you know if Red Cross is still best way to help our neighbors?

    While there ARE phones and email accounts galore statewide, co-ordinated information is not readily available outside the flood zones.
    I live closer to the headwaters of the Yukon in Canada than the river that is the Yukon instate. News is a mere dribble here.
    Do you know of news sources which are staying up to date? News-Miner seems to be doing fairly well… anyone else?

    I am sorry that my salt air/water self ( I start gasping if I get too far from either…) never made it to the old Eagle Village.It was someplace I was always gonna go see … It is a real loss.

    Best wishes in your town-

  5. tigerwine Says:

    As you’ve probably already heard, the town of Eagle is in bad shape, with even the medical clinic and general store gone. My son’s wife said he told her there were pieces of ice going by the size of a house. I’ll know more tonight when he gets home and calls, and will be sure to post here. He has been in Eagle all week, so will have plenty to tell.

    He is with the Park Service, and he and Yukonbushgrma’s hubby work together, although he lives in Fairbanks, not Eagle. I’m sure he’ll have some news of YBG.

    I posted a quote from the Tundra Drums that said Emmonak and Alukanuk were really gonna get it! Bethel has ordered 5,000 sandbags, but it didn’t sound like it would be as bad there.

  6. Secret TalkerΔ Says:

    Thanks,Mark, for all the info.
    What I share with you up in Alaska is National Flood Insurance-in case Lake Okeechobee(FL)floods-(Drought for years).Made me feel like we are all living in the same country.The rest of course is quite different from the everglades. I hope you will comment again about the ice and the river-hydrologist!-that’s a new one!

  7. the problem child Says:

    All who were looking for news from Eagle, yukonbushgrandma has a guest post on mudflats. And the news for her and husband’s home is not good.
    http://www.themudflats.net/2009/05/10/rural-update-news-from-the-flood-zone/

    Take a moment to visit and send her hope and good wishes.

  8. Rob Rosenfeld Says:

    I would like to thank everyone who has been concerned about the villages on the Yukon River impacted by the flood.

    I would like to also thank Chief Jerry Issac (the President of Tanana Chiefs Conference) for promptly flying out to Eagle. This is the type of leadership that is needed.

    Let’s keep a close eye on which communities will need financial supports and other types of resouces. I will keep you posted as we learn about the needs.

    Elder Advisor, Sarah James of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council asked staff to look into ways that we can help.

    Call Governor Palin’s office and ask her to devote as much resources as possible and consider declaring the sites most impacted as a, “State of Emergency” Thank you Rob

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