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Rescue Workers Urge Caution As Kuskokwim Ice Road Thins

Bethel Search and Rescue measures the thickness of the Kuskokwim ice road.

Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta travelers should proceed with caution as the springtime weather warms. According to Mark Leary, the Director of Development and Operations for the Native Village of Napaimute, this may be the last week of truck travel on the Kuskokwim ice road.

“The river’s changing every day now,” Leary said. The ice on the Kuskokwim is usually about 4 feet thick this time of year, but it’s been a warm winter and now the weather’s warming fast. According to Leary, the Kuskokwim’s ice road is only 3 feet thick around Bethel, and it’s closer to 2 feet thick at the Kwethluk-Akiachak Y.

The Kuskokwim ice road was bustling this Easter as families shuttled between Bethel and the villages upstream, but Leary said that the ice from Bethel to just above Akiak is beginning to grow slushy and soft. While cold weather over the next few days could help it hold, the sun is getting stronger. Bethel Search and Rescue’s Mike Riley added that drivers should try to avoid traveling at night to avoid holes.

Riley is still waiting on river updates from the villages downriver from Napaskiak. He said that as of last Friday, that stretch of the ice road was experiencing a bit of overflow.