2nd Break Up on the Kuskokwim River

November 13: piles of ice from the break up on the beach at Napaimute

November 13: piles of ice from the break up on the beach at Napaimute

With the extended warm, wet, windy weather since the evening of November 8th it looked like a second break up in 2014 was possible for the Kuskokwim River.

The ice stopped running here at Napaimute on November 4th and it looked like we were having a good freeze up along the entire River. Water level was nice and low and things were freezing about normal.

But on the evening of 11/8 it warmed up with rain and wind that has hardly let up in the days since.

By November 12th, the water level at Napaimute had risen 4 feet vertically, the ice was floating free from the beach and the northern third of a two mile long section of the channel here in front of the village had broken up into large sheets and shifted. Pressure ridges could be seen building in the main channel further above and below.

The National Weather Service River Forecast Center was notified that break up in the Middle Kuskokwim was imminent.

After dark the River ice began to move off and on throughout the night. It was also reported to be moving at Crooked Creek.

“It sounded like rocks moving and could be heard clearly from inside the house even with the TV on. There’s no needle ice like in the springtime to soften some of the sound. Rocks tumbling down a hillside, rocks splitting, rocks grinding that was the sound all night. The difference now as opposed to a spring breakup, the night is long you know. You don’t know what’s happening during the night, you know it’s like 14 hours of darkness and you don’t know what’s going on – you can hear it but you don’t know and it’s a little bit scary,” said Mark Leary.

By first light of the 13th, the ice was running hard, bank to bank at Napaimute. The ice at Chuathbaluk and Aniak also began breaking up and moving.

Alaska State Trooper Pilot Earl Samuelson was dispatched to fly the River from Bethel to Sleetmute. Earl reported the ice was holding above Sleetmute but looked like it could go anytime. From Sleetmute to below Crooked Creek the River was ice free. From the Oskawalik River to few miles above Kalskag the ice is moving. He expected the break up front to reach Kalskag during the night.

How far downstream this November break up will progress remains to be seen. This is the third November break up in the past twelve years. There was one in 2002, another in 2010 and now this one.

How it refreezes later on may have an effect on spring break up.

The November 2010 break up was the reason Crooked Creek flooded so badly in 2011. That November break up formed a jam some miles below the village that refroze like a cement dam. This took longer to melt out the next spring than the regular ice and became the jamming point for that bad 2011 spring flood.

Temperature here was 50 above this morning but is now down to 45 as the strong warm east-southeast wind has dropped off. Still some light rain showers though.

We’ll keep you posted as things change.

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