A Jamming, Cracking Breakup Expected To Return To The Kuskokwim And Yukon This Year

Apr 13, 2017

The Kuskokwim River above Aniak, looking back at the town on April 12, 2017.
Credit Mark Leary / Native Village of Napaimute

A normal breakup is expected to return to the Kuskokwim and Lower Yukon Rivers this year with the usual cracking, jamming, and possible minor flooding.

“Compared to the last two years, where we had very little problems and the ice went out very early, this year is looking like it will be later than the last two years. More normal," said David Streubel, a hydrologist with the Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center, which is predicting a Kuskokwim breakup in the first two weeks of May and a Lower Yukon breakup in the last two weeks of May.

The center is measuring a below average snowpack throughout the drainage, but an above average ice thickness.

The wild card is weather. The temperatures over the next few weeks will determine how and when the ice goes out, and if the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta will have a dramatic breakup or an uneventful mush out. The Forecast Center is predicting the former.

The Middle and Lower Kuskokwim experienced its earliest breakup on record last year, with the ice mushing out on April 21 outside Bethel.