Alaska's governor issues a disaster declaration for areas affected by flooding from breakup of river ice

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Gov. Mike Dunleavy has issued a state disaster declaration for communities in southwest Alaska that experienced flooding due to river ice breakup and spring snowmelt.

The water surrounded some homes in low-lying areas of the regional center of Bethel, while large parts of Kwethluk were inundated and floodwaters blocked access to the airport in Napaskiak, the Anchorage Daily News reported Friday.

Kwethluk, with about 790 residents, is located 12 miles east of Bethel and is the second largest community on the Lower Kuskokwim River. Napaskiak is located 11 kilometers southeast of Bethel and on the east bank of the Kuskokwim River.

Dave Streubel, a hydrologist with the Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center, said water levels in Bethel reached their highest level in nearly 20 years this week.

The faster rise of water in Kwethluk caught the community by surprise, said acting town manager Samuel Nicori. A state emergency management update Friday said some homes and the runway access road were flooded with water and the sewage system was shut down due to the flooding. Water bottles were flown in.

“We have limited mobility throughout the community,” Nicori said. “Basically there are people walking around the community in wading boots and canoes.”

Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman for the state emergency management office, said significant amounts of snow and ice contributed to the higher water levels and flooding. Streubel said conditions were made worse by an ice dam that formed near the mouth of the Kuskokwim River.

A flood warning was in effect for the Kuskokwim River until Monday morning.

The Associated Press

Anna Harden

Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *