Friday, May 17, 2013

Village Of Eagle, Alaska Floods For The Second Time In Four Years Due To Ice Jams; Only Seven Homes Affected So Far

The community of Eagle, Alaska (see map), which has fewer than 100 year-round residents, has experienced flooding for the second time in four years due to ice jams on the Yukon River associated with spring breakup. Only this time, the flooding is not likely to be as serious as the episode back in May 2009. Alaska Dispatch has photos.

According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, an ice jam formed on the Yukon River at Calico Bluff, 12 miles downstream from Eagle, around 12:30 A.M. on May 17th. Water and ice began back up into the community; the resulting flood knocked seven homes off their foundations in Eagle, while nine other outbuildings were destroyed. But waters began to recede after a jam in the main channel of the Yukon River broke loose at about 5:30 A.M. Nevertheless, ice from the flood remains, and some of the affected homes remain surrounded by thick ice. No injuries or fuel contamination is reported.

This event was nowhere near as destructive as the 2009 flood. A warm, fast breakup in 2009 caused massive damage to the community, taking out 30 homes and leaving much of the town covered beneath a field of jumbled Yukon River ice. At that time, there was also diesel contamination from ruptured tanks, and the town's only became contaminated with E.coli. There is yet to be a dramatic warmup, and the ice in many areas further downstream remains locked solid. Most of the community is built on a bluff overlooking the river.

Circle is believed to be the next community on the Yukon River threatened by ice jamming, and a flood advisory has been issue for Salcha, where the Tanana River is beginning to break up.

Update May 19th: The breakup front reached Circle, a community of 100 people, on May 19th. The Yukon River rapidly rose 5 to 8 feet and water reached almost every home in the community, pushing several homes off their foundations. Final total is 30 structures damaged and 15 families displaced.

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