Kuskokwim River ice still holding

by Mark Arehart on May 13, 2013

Solid ice conditions on much of the middle and lower Kuskokwim River has delayed the River Watch program from monitoring breakup. Officials say they can’t predict when breakup will come, but it could be a while.

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Conditions on much of the Kuskokwim River have been pretty quiet.

“The weather has been cold. In fact it’s been cooling down below freezing and shutting down any melting that has been going on in the daytime,” said Karl Edwards, who runs River Watch, a joint effort between the State of Alaska and the National Weather Service.

“We have seen thick, solid ice from most of the reports from our communities out there. We’re basically monitoring at this point waiting to hear from changes.”

Edwards said that’s why he and his team have been delaying flying the river to monitor break up.

His team is tentatively scheduled to start flying Thursday from Kalskag to Sleetmute.

Last week ice started to break in Nicholai on the upper river.

Edwards said that section is pretty much open, but ice is still present about 60 river miles below at McGrath. “McGrath has reported rotting ice and some pressure ridges forming downstream but nothing significant at this time,” he said.

Historically, at Bethel, the river breaks around two weeks after McGrath. So it could be a while.

“It is a very late year. I think, historically, I think the latest we’ve seen some of these communities break up is June 1st.”

When breakup does get here, Edwards encourages people to be prepared for possible flooding.

He said people should stock at least three days worth of food and water and be aware of emergency plans in their communities.

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