BETHEL, Alaska — Ice has broken up along an Alaska River as temperatures rose, forcing residents to prepare for possible flooding.
Ice broke up on the Kuskokwim River above the small community of Nikolai on April 21, KYUK-AM reported Wednesday.
An ice jam is developing 24 miles (39 kilometers) downstream, officials said, while ice in the Aniak River and smaller tributaries has also broken up.
As the ice breakups continues, the National Weather Service predicted ice jams and flooding along the river in coming weeks.
The agency asked residents to share information about ice and snow conditions and prepare their homes and communities to prevent or minimize flood damage.
Ice jams and flooding happen when sudden warm weather quickly melts snow, which rushes into a river. The ice on the water forms a dam and water pools behind it.
Residents along the Kuskokwim River taking part in an April 20 teleconference reported brown tundra, overflow and ice softened by weekend rains.
Much of the Kuskokwim Basin’s low elevation snow melted over the past two weeks, but there is still heavy snow covering the mountains, officials said.
The weather service reported snowfall at the beginning of April up to two times greater than the 30-year average for the mountains surrounding the Kuskokwim River’s headwaters.
The agency plans to make annual flights to observe changing river conditions but will avoid landing in communities because of travel restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.