Breakup

The 2015 Kuskokwim Ice Classic tripod sits in front of Bethel. Photo by Dean Swope / KYUK.

The 2015 Kuskokwim Ice Classic tripod sits in front of Bethel. Photo by Dean Swope / KYUK.

There are a lot of numbers to crunch in the 2015 Kuskokwim Ice Classic. Thanks to a guaranteed $10,000 prize, more than six thousand guesses—almost double last year’s total— are in the running. KYUK’s Ben Matheson breaks down the digits.

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Bad ice at the Gweek river area. Photo courtesy BSAR.

Bad ice at the Gweek river area. Photo courtesy BSAR.

A string of warm days and minimal runoff from the reduced snowpack is contributing to the 2015 Kuskowkim mushout. Hydrologist Crane Johnson with the Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center says the Lower Kuskokwim’s snowpack is well below average, while the rive ice has consistently measured thinner than normal. Those factors, plus warm weather are combining for a mushout.
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Open water was evident Monday at Brown's Slough. Photo Dean Swope / KYUK.

Open water was evident Monday at Brown’s Slough. Photo Dean Swope / KYUK.

Following a string of warm weather and a beating sun, Bethel Search and Rescue’s Peter Atchak flew a portion of the lower river Monday afternoon in a Super Cub with support from troopers and the state.

“All the side sloughs we observed were for the most part broken up. some that didn’t appear broken up were showing definitely signs of weakened nice and needle ice on the remaining ice on side sloughs. We’ve seen a lot of melted out overflows. All the islands were surrounded by deep overflow,” said Atchak. Read more →

A rare November Breakup on the Kuskokwim River near Napaimute. Photo Courtesy of Mark Leary

A rare November Breakup on the Kuskokwim River near Napaimute. Photo Courtesy of Mark Leary

The Kuskokwim River in Southwest Alaska is experiencing a rare November breakup. Temperatures were cold in early November but over the past several days, temperatures have reached into the 40s and even the 50s in some places along the river.

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The Kuskokwim River is rotting out both above and below Bethel. The ice moved near Kalskag this weekend and formed a half a mile lead above Kalskag. Earl Samuelson is a pilot for state troopers and flew the river Saturday. He spotted very weak ice below lower Kalskag.
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Kuskokwim River ice with surface water taken from the seawall. (Photo courtesy of Charles Enoch)

Kuskokwim River ice with surface water taken from the seawall. (Photo courtesy of Charles Enoch)

The Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center predicts the Kuskowkim will break up at Bethel between May 9th and May 15th. That range is right around the historical average of May 12th. But after a warm winter with little snow, the Forecast Center says this year’s breakup could happen in one of several ways.

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After several warm days, the Kuskokwim River has standing water and deep holes. Mike Riley with Bethel Search and Rescue says vehicles should stay off the river.
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The Kuskokwim Ice Classic tripod went up on the Bethel waterfront this week.

The Kuskokwim Ice Classic tripod went up on the Bethel waterfront this week.

The Kuskokwim Ice Classic tripod went up on the Bethel waterfront this week. Michelle DeWitt is Executive Director of Bethel Community Services Foundation, which runs the Kusko Ice Classic. Read more →