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NWS issues flood watch for Kwethluk, with ice still jammed below Kalskag

The view near Lower Kalskag, May 3, 2024.
National Weather Service
The view near Lower Kalskag, May 3, 2024.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for the area around Kwethluk, in effect through Tuesday afternoon.

When the ice jam in the Kalskag area breaks, a pulse of water will flow downstream, and National Weather Service Hydrologist Johnse Ostman says it could impact communities downstream of Kalskag, including Tuluksak, Akiak, Akiachak and Kwethluk.

Kwethluk is the primary concern, as it’s lower elevation and more prone to flooding than the other communities.

“Just for people's awareness, because there is still ice in place,” Ostman said from Kalskag during the first RiverWatch flight on Saturday (May 4). “There's a lot of room for the water to go. And the ice looks relatively weak and dark as we get further down[river], and we can see where it's been trying to move, where it's sort of crashing against itself. We're seeing pressure ridges, but we want people to be aware.”

Upriver, Kalskag remains under flood advisory, as an ice jam on the Kuskokwim River below the community continues to cause minor flooding. As of Saturday afternoon, Kalskag residents said ice was moving slowly, indicating a potential move in the jam. According to one resident, water was high, about a foot below the power plant, but as of 12:00 p.m., power was still on in both Upper and Lower Kalskag.

As of Saturday morning, the road between Upper and Lower Kalskag was covered with a few feet of water and closed to vehicle traffic, although some residents reported moving around in canoes.

Even further upriver, Aniak was removed from its flood watch Friday morning (May 3), as a jam cleared at Birch Crossing.

Ostman said there is some concern that ice and wood reported to be heading downriver from Sleetmute Saturday morning.

“The concern is if that gets here before this [ice] releases, then we could start to back up water and it could back up into Aniak or it could plug Old River and that could make the Kalskag flood worse,” Ostman said.

RiverWatch officials say in the coming days, cooler temperatures will slow the speed of breakup on the Kuskokwim. But up and down the river, they say that ice looks weak, and it’s not likely the colder weather will bring breakup to a complete halt.

On the Yukon River, breakup is a bit delayed. The river broke at Eagle on Friday, and as of Saturday morning, there was a flood watch in Circle because of the approaching breakup frog. Hydrologists said that while water levels in Galena were rising slowly, there weren’t yet signs of breakup.

Find photos from Friday’s Kuskokwim RiverWatch flight here.

Breakup and flood-related information can change quickly, and this article may be updated to reflect more current information.

Share photos or observations with KYUK at 907-543-0223 or by emailing

Sage Smiley is KYUK's news director.
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