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Dangerous Break-up Predicted

It’s looking like Alaska could be in for a rough break up season. Forecasters warn of a dangerous spring on Alaska rivers. 

Spring river flood potential is above average from the Brooks Range south, as a hefty snowpack heightens the possibility of dynamic break up of Alaska’s rivers.

"Where the ice is broken up mechanically by an influx of water."

National Weather Service hydrologist Karen Endres points to heavy snow that’s piled up across the state.

"We have above-average snowpacks in almost all of the areas in Alaska. Particularly, the Tanana is running about 180% above average."

Noting that river ice thicknesses are about normal, Endres says if the snow melts rapidly,  there’s higher potential for ice to fracture and jam, causing flooding.

"The amount of water that's coming down, and the fact that the ice is average -- it's not weak ice -- we could potentially see some issues with that."

Endres says this year’s conditions are very different from other recent years’ when river ice has gradually rotted in place.

"The set up that we have right now is very similar to what we had in 2013. And we had some major ice jams and flooding in 2013."

Including along the Yukon River at Galena where the community was inundated, forcing evacuation, followed by a major emergency response and rebuilding effort.

Endres says warmer than normal temperatures are forecast through the end of April, and the weather service will be issuing site-specific break up forecasts this week.

Dan has been in public radio news in Alaska since 1993. He’s worked as a reporter, newscaster and talk show host at stations in McGrath, Valdez and Fairbanks. Dan’s experience includes coverage of a wide range of topics, from wolf control to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and dog mushing.