The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for Tuluksak today, but elder and Bethel Search and Rescue volunteer Peter Atchak says that the community shouldn’t expect the river to rise further. He surveyed the Kuskokwim by plane on Tuesday morning and then sat down with KYUK to give a report.
KYUK: In a word, how would you describe what you saw?
KYUK: Why is it surprising?
ATCHAK: We were expecting to see a whole lot of ice, and we didn’t find it this morning. The mighty Kuskokwim is always full of surprises, you know. We can guestimate what the river is going to do all we want, but it will always do more than what we expected. I just take it moment by moment.
KYUK: Let’s talk about those affected villages. We know there’s a flood warning for Tuluksak, and that Aniak and Upper and Lower Kalskag have also had some issues. What’s the update for them?
ATCHAK: Well Aniak and Kalskag, as far as we can tell, they're pretty much in the clear at this time. Of course, you know we can't say totally clear. We've been surprised before. So they still need to be on the lookout for floating ice from down into the village for the next several days.
The biggest concern at this time is the village of Tuluksak. There's a, I'm going to say a small jam in front of the village or right below the village that stretches out to the front and a little bit above it. That's holding up progress of the ice movement in that area. We were looking for ice this morning on our flight and we didn't find it. We were expecting more. I think what may have happened is that a lot of it may have crumbled up, and then a lot of it, I think, drifted by Tuluksak over the night. There is some water still, and there's reports of that water still been rising up a bit, you know, but it's not, like, in a big rush of water inundating the village yet. There probably won’t be drastically a lot more than what we see at this time.
KYUK: What does this mean for the villages that are downstream from Tuluksak?
ATCHAK: Yes, the next village, of course, from Tuluksak is Akiak, and then we've seen Akiak was pretty much ice free because of the stoppage above the village, you know, so all that floating ice as at this time is at a pause. There is of course, you know, some ice floating by, but not bank to bank. The next jam below that village would be at the mouth of Kuskokuak.
KYUK: Is there anything else we should know about what the Kuskokwim is doing right now?
ATCHAK: Yes. The Kuskokwim is in breakup mode at this time. People are anxious to get out boating, and I've been watching the river and going along the banks of in front of Bethel, and I see a lot of boats going out and coming in. And I am saddened to see a whole lot of them don't have life preservers. So that's what we like to pass on to everyone, that it's a very dangerous time of year for boaters. A lot of that ice is so heavy that it's under the surface of the top of the water, so when you're boating you will not see until you hit them.