The Yukon River Delta could flood Tuesday night, causing major erosion as a storm moves up the Bering Sea coast.
The National Weather Service has issued a coastal flood warning from 6 p.m. Tuesday until noon on Wednesday for the Yukon Delta. Water could rise eight to 10 feet near Kotlik and four to six feet elsewhere. A storm surge and high tides are expected to raise sea levels and push water upriver.
The agency warns that major erosion could occur. The ice that protects the land during winter storms has not yet formed, and the Weather Service advises residents to move boats and other belongings far above the high tide line.
Kotlik Tribal Administrator Pauline Okitkun says that the community is getting ready. Tribal Council members are announcing the storm over VHF radio and sending texts to residents on how to prepare.
“Make sure things on their property are locked down and have their vehicle at a higher location with their boat," said Okitkun. "Have enough stove oil for their heating and preparing for the lights to come out.”
The community has vigilantly planned for storms since a flood devastated the village in November 2013. Surging waters sent ice floes ripping through the town that night, smashing boardwalks, sewage lines, and homes.
But Okitkun says that there’s little ice to do damage this year; Kotlik is mostly surrounded by open water.
Other Yukon villages are preparing for the storm as well:
Alakanuk Tribal Administrator Ray Oney is asking community members to keep their VHF radios ready and says that Village Police Officers are standing by to help.
Nunam Iqua City Advisor Carin Finch says that the tribal office is keeping its eye on the weather reports. No ice has formed around the community to protect the land if waters rise.
So far the Yukon Delta has not seen flooding this year, but that could change this evening.