Kuskokwim ice remains thick up and down river

by Mark Arehart on May 3, 2013

With ice nearing four-feet thick in many places along the Kuskokwim, spring certainly does not feel like it is in the air. Riverwatch hydrologists are gearing up to start tracking spring breakup by plane and say it is a little behind schedule.

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In Aniak on the Middle Kuskokwim the ice is 45” thick. In Red Devil it’s just about 36”.

That is the story up and down the Kuskokwim River.

As some residents might say: breakup could be taking its sweet time this year.

“Really things are just behind schedule,” Hydrologist Celine van Breukelen said. She works for the Riverwatch program, a joint effort between the National Weather Service and the State of Alasska that monitors river breakup.

“The Bethel average break-up date is on average sometime between May 7th-14th and right now we’re predicting it’s going to happen somewhere between the 14th-21st,” Van Breukelen said.

She said there is a pretty simple reason breakup is lagging this year.

“It’s really that there has been a high pressure system basically over basically most of Alaska the past few weeks. It’s just kept conditions clear and cold, unseasonably cold.”

Historically breakup on the Lower Kuskokwim happens around two weeks or so after McGrath, about 400 miles upriver of Bethel, sees its breakup.

And right now the ice is thick enough to handle fishermen traveling by snowmachine and fourwheeler.

The National Weather Service in McGrath reports thickness around 30”.

The Riverwatch team expects to start flying May 8th. Tune into KYUK then for daily river updates.

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