Alaska Town Submerged by 30-Mile 'Ice Jam'

Residents evacuated as homes are destroyed

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted May 30, 2013 10:53 AM CDT

(Newser) – The remote Alaska town of Galena is accustomed to spring flooding, so much so that many of its homes are built on stilts, reports the AP. But it wasn't prepared for what it faced this week: a 30-mile ice jam that literally jammed the Yukon River and unleashed intense flooding on the town. The waters began to rise Sunday and by yesterday many of Galena's 500 residents had fled via plane, with a few holdouts camping at the airport, one of the only dry spots left.

Homes have been ripped from their foundations, cell and electrical service is down, and the bridge to the airport was knocked out. A Weather Service hydrologist at the scene tells the Anchorage Daily News that bathrooms aren't functioning and "there are houses that are totally submerged in water up to the roof." Though no injuries or deaths have been reported, locals say just about every house has suffered damage. And with temps hitting the 80s, the jam is starting to break up—putting a community 14 miles downriver from the jam at risk. Says Koyukuk's mayor, "We're looking at a flash flood. Something like a dam breaking." The expectation is that when the jam breaks, it will send a wave of water toward Koyukuk, reaching it in about four hours.

The ice jam on the Yukon River at Bishop Rock is shown in Galena, Alaska.   (AP Photo/National Weather Service, Ed Plumb)
Ice and water are shown flooding homes and other buildings in Galena, Alaska. Several hundred people are estimated to have fled the community.   (AP Photo/National Weather Service, Ed Plumb)
A river ice jam has caused major flooding, sending water washing over roads and submerging buildings, in Galena, Alaska.   (AP Photo/National Weather Service, Ed Plumb)
In this May 27, 2013 photo released by the National Weather Service, ice and water cover the roads in Galena, Alaska.   (AP Photo/National Weather Service, Ed Plumb)
In this May 27, 2013 photo released by the National Weather Service, boats and buses used for evacuation are shown as floodwaters from the Yukon River rise.   (AP Photo/National Weather Service, Ed Plumb)
In this May 27, 2013 photo released by the National Weather Service, homes and other buildings are shown flooded in Galena, Alaska.   (AP Photo/National Weather Service, Ed Plumb)
In this May 28, 2013 photo, the town of Galena, Alaska is flooded by the Yukon River during the breakup of winter ice.   (AP Photo/Alaska National Guard, Sgt. Edward Eagerton)
In this May 28, 2013 photo, the town of Galena, Alaska is flooded by the Yukon River during the breakup of winter ice.   (AP Photo/Alaska National Guard, Sgt. Edward Eagerton)
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