Environmental stories that take place in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

An ice jam below Napaimute on April 30, 2020.
Alaska State Troopers

The flooding near Napaimute has devastated most of the cabins at the seasonal village site. The National Weather Service began flying their River Watch crew along the Kuskokwim River this week to monitor break up conditions. Hydrologist Celine Van Breukelen shared her observations from April 30.

Kuskokwim River ice piles onto the Aniak shore on April 30, 2020.
Dave Cannon

Longtime residents of the Kuskokwim River and the National Weather Service are expecting ice jams and flooding this breakup. To reduce the risk of both, some residents have floated the idea of "sanding" the river. The process involves dropping sand from a crop duster airplane onto the ice. The dark sand helps soften the ice so that it is less likely to jam when it cracks. Sanding hasn’t occurred in decades, but one person in Bethel remembers sanding the rivers in the late 1970s, mostly the Yukon River. Tim Meyers shares this memory.

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.

The Kuskokwim River in front of Aniak on April 30, 2020.
Dave Cannon

An ice jam is holding downstream of Napaimute, flooding the seasonal village. At Aniak, the ice is shifting, according to Aniak resident Dave Cannon. Cannon described the Kuskokwim ice shifting in front of the village during KYUK’s afternoon river update on April 30. He narrated as a huge ice pan moved downstream with six pressure ridges on it, and large chunks of ice were flowing down Aniak Slough.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for communities along the middle Kuskokwim River from Aniak to Akiak.

Kuskokwim River Breaches Banks At Napaimute

Apr 29, 2020
Break-up begins on the Kuskokwim River in front of Napaimute, Alaska on April 29, 2020.
Ben Leary / KYUK

The ice broke up in front of Napaimute around 1 a.m. on April 29. Resident Ben Leary reported that the fast moving river flooded the bank later that morning, with water levels going halfway up his smokehouse.

River ice nearing the top of the riverbank in Red Devil April 27.
Ruby Egrass

Villages in the Y-K Delta are preparing for a greater chance of flooding than in recent years, according to the National Weather Service. The state’s emergency operations center is carefully watching the melting ice on rural rivers to see if it will need to intervene, which could include flying entire villages to hubs like Bethel or Anchorage.

Kuskokwim River Ice Still Holding In McGrath

Apr 23, 2020

The ice moved out of Nikolai on Monday, April 20, but is still holding further down the Kuskokwim River in McGrath. Public radio station KSKO's general manager, Dave Patty, went out on the river earlier on Thursday, April 23. He said that there was more open water near shore, but the tripod for McGrath’s Ice Classic was still standing.  

Weekend rains softened Kuskokwim River ice in front of Napaimute, pictured here on April 20, 2020.
Ben Leary

The ice cleared on the Kuskokwim River above Nikolai on April 21, but an ice jam is developing 24 miles downstream at the North Fork. Residents of Nikolai are watching it carefully and preparing for possible flooding.

This photo of Walter Betz's house on Osage Avenue surrounded by water was taken April 18.
Beverly Hoffman

Ice is melting in the Y-K Delta. With abnormally high snowfall during one of the coldest winters in years, people are expecting more water and more flooding than usual this spring. Some Bethel residents are already seeing high water levels around their homes, and city administration is planning for the scenario where people need to evacuate.