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Villages Brace For Flooding As Ice Moves Down Kuskokwim River

Mark Leary

Communities up and down the Kuskokwim River have already started preparing for flooding. KYUK contacted six communities from Chuathbulak down to Kwethluk. All reported high water, but nothing too serious as of the afternoon of April 30. Residents have dragged snowmachines and other valuable equipment to higher ground.

Many villages have designated schools as sites to house people who have to evacuate in case of flooding. Akiachak will use an old armory in addition to its school gym. Those communities are preparing to maintain social distancing protocols, and have sanitizing supplies and masks on hand to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak. Boris Epchook, the city manager for Kwethluk, said that the community has been trying to be proactive in its preparations. 

"We’re just trying to keep ahead of all the activities going on: river breakup, flooding, and COVID-19," Epchook said.

Epchook said that village police have gone house to house to make sure all Kwethluk residents know about the flooding plans. He said that Kwethluk has another major concern:

"With the high water, as well as ice drifting down, possible river bank erosion is one of the issues we will be addressing as well," Epchook said.

According to Epchook, the community plans to move at least four houses from the riverbank sometime this year.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the ice jam below Napaimute broke.