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Thirty-mile ‘ice jam’ floods Alaska town and forces residents to flee

By David Ferguson
Thursday, May 30, 2013 8:21 EDT
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River ice via Shutterstock
 
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A massive “ice jam” on the Yukon River has caused flooding in the town of Galena, Alaska, forcing residents to flee their homes. According to the Associated Press, the flooding has lifted homes off their foundations and is currently straining at the dike protecting the community’s small airport.

The Alaska National Guard airlifted some 32 people and 19 dogs to the safety of Fairbanks on Tuesday night, 270 miles east of Galena. Other residents evacuated sooner.

Kevin Ray, 65, moved to Galena four months ago and was among the people flown to safety aboard the Guard’s C-130 cargo plane Tuesday. He told the AP that all of his possessions, his office and apartment are underwater thanks to the flooding.

“So basically, I’m kind of a homeless guy,” he said to the AP by phone from a Red Cross shelter in Fairbanks. “I never thought I’d be a victim. But hey, life is life.”

The 30-mile stretch of ice and debris blocking the Yukon is expected to melt slowly over the next few days as temperatures reach the 80s. When the river breaks through the jam, the community of Koyukuk, located downriver, will be vulnerable to flooding.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said National Weather Service hydrologist Ed Plumb to the AP. “And I don’t think these people here (have) either. The ice jam is amazing.”

Reconnaissance flights over the jam say that the river is slowly chewing away at the ice. The flooding began Sunday with waters steadily rising. Power, fresh water, cell phone service and road accessibility have all been disrupted by the flood.

State emergency spokesman Jeremy Zidek told the AP that 76 residents of Galena chose not to evacuate, taking shelter in an Air Force barracks located within the perimeter of the dike. No injuries or deaths have been reported so far as a result of the ice jam.

Zideck said that officials are attempting to inventory the damage and that a disaster policy group will submit recommendations to Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R).

Watch video about this story, embedded below via ABC News:

[image of an ice-jammed river via Shutterstock.com]

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
 
 
 
 
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