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Cooler Air Slows River Break-up

As photographed by Eric Muehling, the Chena River breaks up on April 23, 2020 in downtown Fairbanks.
Eric Muehling
Used with permission.
As photographed by Eric Muehling, the Chena River breaks up on April 23, 2020 in downtown Fairbanks.

Snow melt and river break up have slowed across the Interior. Speaking during a weekly river break up teleconference Tuesday, National Weather Service hydrologist Karen Endres

pointed to cooler air that’s settle over the region.

SBU Cold: Q:”…the Upper Yukon.” :13

Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center hydrologist Crane Johnson says river watch overflights scheduled to begin earlier in the week, have been delayed until Friday because of the cold. Johnson highlighted webcam and river gauge data from the upper Yukon River.

SBU Dropped: Q:”…dropped slightly as well.” :26

During the teleconference the hydrologists heard from community observers, including Rich Thorne (THORN) who checked in from Bettles, where he reported ice on the Koyukuk River headwaters and completely snow-covered mountains.

SBU Rocks: Q:”…down the Koyokuk.” :08

Thorne noted some concern about the potential of ice jam flooding downstream.

SBU Worried: Q:”…have called me.” :08


Another caller from the Middle Yukon River community of Galena said residents of low lying old town are getting ready and packing up in case there’s a repeat of the kind of flooding that heavily damaged the village in 2013. The River Forecasts Center’s Johnson noted that this year’s Riverwatch Program will be different because while river overflights will be happening, planes will not be stopping in remote communities due to pandemic concerns, instead sharing river information by phone, email and local radio.


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.