River Watch will monitor Alaska river breakup

The famous Nenana Ice Classic tripod, frozen in the Tanana River, with the railroad bridge in the background. Photo by climate.gov

River Watch, a partnership of the National Weather Service Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center and the division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, is on alert to monitor ice-jam conditions this spring and provide timely updates to river communities.

“We see some type of flooding each and every spring, but conditions this year require extra preparation based on current conditions. Only time will tell where flooding occurs and how severe the inundation is, so every community sho uld be prepared,” said Mark Roberts, State Emergency Operations Center River Watch incident commander. “In addition, the large amount of snow could cause spring flooding not associated with an ice-jam.” 

Ice-jam flooding occurs when large pieces of intact ice stop moving in the river and create a dam. These ice jams can back up water for miles and spill over the banks far inland. Deep flood waters and massive chunks of ice can flood low-lying areas and cause serious community damage.

SEOC, in coordination with the NWS Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center, are conducting calls with at-risk riverine communities to provide the latest information on river conditions and flood risk. SEOC is also engaged in active coordination with community flood response partners including the Tanana Chiefs Conference, Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, Bethel Search and Rescue, American Red Cross of Alaska, Salvation Army, and Alaska Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center has been briefed on conditions and will be prepared to deploy appropriate resources in case of a flood emergency.

The Alaska Department of Military Affairs noted that the Alaska Army National Guard aviation unit will conduct its annual training in the western region of Alaska from April 30 through May 12 and be available to offer emergency support as requested by the Rescue Coordination Center.