Open Water at Chuathbaluk: Kuskokwim Breakup Advances

by Ben Matheson on April 29, 2014

Kuskokwim River looking upstream from Aniak. Photo by Dave Cannon.

Kuskokwim River looking upstream from Aniak. Photo by Dave Cannon.

The Kuskokwim river continues to rapidly rot out. There is now as much as 35-45 miles of open water above Chuathbaluk and an open lead at Kalskag. As temperatures rise and the last of the snowpack melts, crews are flying the river to assess flood potential and stop in Kuskokwim communities.

The first River Watch flight out of Aniak launches this afternoon. Eric Holloway with the National Weather Service River Forecast Center says he’ll have his eyes trained on gauging the level of rotting ice on the mid and upper river.

“So there’s lots of things happening, we’ve had a lot of sunny weather, some mild temperatures. So things seem to be progressing somewhat nicely this time of year,” said Holloway.

Up and down the river, there are signs of extensive rotted ice. The tripod is still up at McGrath, but the ice appears to be very weakened with a lot of water at the side of the river. The Aniak River has been out for half a week, and tributaries near the mouth are ice-free.

Temperatures this weekend are expected to be well above normal. Holloway says that should do some damage to the snowpack at higher elevations, before the high temperatures drop. That’s good news for avoiding large ice jams.

“This is almost ideal. We get a little push of water here, maybe take care of some of this rotten ice and then we cool back down a little bit. So I think this is nearly an ideal situation,” said Holloway.

Holloway hopes to fly up to Sleetmute this afternoon. He will be landing in villages to check on preparedness.

The River Watch team is asking Kuskokwim residents for photos and observations on twitter.com/NWSAPRFC and at an email address: nws.ar.aprfc@noaa.gov.

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