UNITED STATES NEWS

Surging Alaska rivers leave behind huge chunks of ice, damaged homes

May 16, 2023, 12:24 PM | Updated: 5:08 pm

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Ice jams that blocked two Alaska rivers broke loose over the weekend, unleashing a surge of ice and water that caused major floods, damaged homes and left behind huge chunks of ice as tall as 12 feet (3.7 meters).

Floodwaters on the Yukon River peaked at or near record level in the small community of Circle — the highest since 1945 — said Mike Ottenweller, a forecaster with the Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center. Flooding could continue for the next few weeks as more snow melts, he said.

The water rose quickly Saturday before retreating Sunday on the Yukon River in the state’s east and the Kuskokwim River in the southwest, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Homes were lifted off foundations, smashed into by ice, or inundated with water in communities like Circle and Crooked Creek.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a disaster declaration for the Yukon River communities of Circle and Eagle, as well as Crooked Creek on the Kuskokwim and Glennallen on the Copper River.

Ice jam flooding in the spring is not unusual in Alaska, but this year the risk was higher.

“The combo of a cold April and deep snowpack really loads the dice,” said Rick Thoman, a climate specialist at the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

However, Thoman said this kind of flooding is expected to become less common in the next few decades as springs warm.

Diane Olmstead, a teacher in Circle, said it took only about 10 minutes for the chilly floodwaters to rise a foot high (30 cm) after they began creeping toward the school at around 8 p.m. Olmstead said she watched a colleague get rescued from their residence and brought to the school. By about 9:30 p.m., the water “started to recede almost as dramatically as it rose,” she said.

Olmstead’s car was destroyed and she lost most of her belongings. She cried as she surveyed the damage in the community, which included one house near the river being washed away and at least seven others knocked from their foundations and battered with ice, she said.

Authorities were aware of at least three homes pushed off foundations as damage assessments were underway, said Jeremy Zidek, a spokesperson with the state’s emergency management office.

No one was hurt but emergency officials were working to transport generators, backup communication systems and clean drinking water to the village of about 75 people, roughly 160 miles (257 kilometers) northeast of Fairbanks.

Recovery will be challenging in Circle and Crooked Creek, Zidek said.

“There’s a lot of ice that’s been deposited on roads and within the community — and we’re talking about huge chunks of ice, some of them as tall as 12 feet,” he said.

Most of Crooked River’s 90 residents had evacuated to the village school, which is on higher ground, Zidek said.

However, the rising waters stranded 12 people in the second story of a home, Zidek said. An Alaska National Guard helicopter was called in to help, but a nearby helicopter from the Donlin Gold project was able to fly over and rescue three of the stranded residents. The others accessed a boat once the flood began to recede.

Zidek did not immediately have an estimate of how many homes were damaged.

Ottenweller, the river forecaster, said the water level in Crooked River was as much as 5 feet higher (1.5 meters) than in 2011, a year that marked the most extreme flooding the village saw in recent decades.

United States News

Associated Press

Israeli strikes in Gaza kill 48 as fears mount over humanitarian crisis and West Bank violence

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli strikes killed at least 48 people in southern and central Gaza overnight, half of them women and children, health officials said Thursday, as European foreign ministers and U.N. agencies called for a cease-fire, with alarm rising over the worsening humanitarian crisis and potential starvation in the territory. Tensions were […]

44 minutes ago

A man uses a cellphone in New Orleans on Aug. 11, 2019....

Associated Press

Americans reporting nationwide cellular outages from AT&T, Cricket Wireless and other providers

A number of Americans were dealing with cellular outages on AT&T, Cricket Wireless, Verizon, T-Mobile and other service providers.

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Guilty plea from the man accused of kidnapping a 9-year-old girl from an upstate New York park

BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. (AP) — A man accused of kidnapping a 9-year-old girl from a state park in upstate New York pleaded guilty to two felony counts and faces 47 years to life in prison. Craig N. Ross Jr. pleaded guilty Wednesday under a plea deal to first-degree kidnapping and predatory sexual assault of a […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Leslie Moonves attends the CBS Network 2015 Programming Upfront at The Tent at Lincoln Cente...

Associated Press

LA ethics panel rejects proposed fine for ex-CBS exec Les Moonves over police probe interference

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission unanimously rejected a proposed settlement between the city and Les Moonves on Wednesday, saying a tougher penalty is warranted for the former CBS chief executive accused of interfering with a police investigation into sexual assault allegations against him. Moonves had agreed to pay an $11,250 […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Trial of ‘Rust’ armorer to begin in fatal film rehearsal shooting by Alec Baldwin

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Attorneys prepared to make opening statements Thursday at the first trial related to the fatal shooting of a cinematographer by actor Alec Baldwin during a rehearsal for the Western film “Rust.” Before Baldwin’s case progresses, the movie’s weapons supervisor is being tried on charges of involuntary manslaughter and tampering with […]

9 hours ago

Follow @ktar923...

Sponsored Content by Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

Surging Alaska rivers leave behind huge chunks of ice, damaged homes