Rapid Early Melt Causes Flooding Problems in Alaska

West Coast Scapes / shutterstock.com
West Coast Scapes / shutterstock.com

While rivers rising, new (often temporary) streams forming, and ice blocks moving down the river is nothing new in Alaska, this year the storm waters aren’t merely threatening nearby homes. Instead, the storms are crashing right through their walls, with multiple being knocked clean off their foundations. Some have seen the ground underneath also washed away with their house going along with it.

Ice jams throughout the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers are the root cause behind most of the damage across the state. Meanwhile, the rapidly and unseasonably early melting of the snowpack along Moose Creek has flooded the village of Glennallen.

The flooding of the roadways shut down the Glenn Highway, which is the thoroughfare straight east from Anchorage to Canada. It also caused massive havoc on the sewer system of Glennallen, forcing the Alaska Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to bring in portable toilets.

“Large pumps are dewatering flooded areas, gravel is being laid for emergency access repair, and emergency sewer line repairs are underway,” they said in a statement.

Anchorage TV station KTUU spoke with Glennallen residents who talked about how unseasonably early the melt was, and how rapid it came. With the use of drones for studying the damage, KTUU found cars and trucks submerged in water, with oil and gas slicks on the water’s surface surrounding the vehicles.

With the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers letting go of icebergs on the 13th and 14th, some were reported as being over 10 feet tall as they moved down the river.

In response to the devastation, many school districts have been opening their doors to help anyone impacted by these horrific and unusual floods. While their efforts are certainly appreciated by the townspeople, they would certainly much rather be in their homes. Given the freakish and unusual nature of the melt, there is little word about if insurance will cover their belongings and homes or not.