Wednesday, May 24, 2006

We Have Break-up!

Oh, glorious day! The Kuskokwim River officially broke up at 1:23 pm Alaska Daylight Time, Tuesday, May 23rd. The winner of the Ice Classic will be announced tomorrow. I guessed pretty close, but not close enough. I always pick May 23rd as one of my guesses, because it is my sister’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Sis!). But I chose the wrong high tide; I guessed 1:30 am instead of 1:30 pm.

The day was absolutely beautiful, with lots of warm sun and warm breezes. We actually broke 50 degrees, and the air really smelled like spring. Birds are suddenly everywhere, chirping and twerping and sounding very happy.

The level of excitement in Bethel is palpable. This is one of our biggest yearly events, charged by a certain undercurrent of danger as we go into full flood-watch mode. Some years we have a lot of flooding and some years only a little; there is no predicting which it will be. Flooding depends mainly on how the ice moves out of the river and where the ice jams will occur. The river becomes very broad and shallow not far below Bethel, and is joined by a large tributary, the Johnson River. The confluence of the two is a recurrent jam-up place, and can cause significant flooding in Bethel.

Everyone is on high alert, and the town is buzzing. People are headed for the river on bicycles, dirt bikes, four wheelers, cars, trucks and cabs. Everyone wants to see the turbulence of the ice going by; the riverbank is lined with people watching the big event.

The ice is just starting to make the grinding noises that will go on for a few days. Large blocks of ice get jammed up at the sides of the river as the center moves out. The blocks roll and tumble in the current, sometimes shooting debris out suddenly, seemingly from nowhere.

I am fortunate to be on high ground, so flooding is not likely here at our house. My friend Henry, however, is in a much lower area, and the water had started rising quickly by 4 pm. Flood waters have started encroaching the dog yard, so we had to get some dogs moved fast!

It required getting out Henry’s small boat to rescue some of the dogs and move them to higher ground. Our friend Joan, and her two teenage boys Michael and Luke showed up to help, along with Henry’s wife Betty and their niece Andrea and a friend.

It took nearly two hours, but we got a heat pen set up and a dozen dogs moved up close to the house where they are tied in the bushes. The dogs are out of their minds with excitement at all this.

The flood water rose so much while I was at Henry’s that I almost couldn’t get through in my full-size pick-up to get home. Dutch works for the city of Bethel, and he and his crews are all over town, keeping track of things and solving problems. I hope he manages to get home tonight! This state of alert may last for several days, during which he may not get much sleep. We haven’t had a big flood for almost ten years, and many are wondering if this will be the year for it.

Keep your fingers crossed for us…



Anonymous Moof said...

You can count on the fingers crossed! Does this flooding happen every year?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 2:18:00 AM  
Blogger Marysienka said...

I find it really interesting to learn about your corner of the world, and the pictures make it even more real. We can almost get the smell of your new Spring.
And of course, we'll keep our fingers crossed for you!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 4:05:00 AM  
Blogger TheTundraPA said...

Moof--yes, every year. It is all part of break-up. The river is 800 miles long and nearly a mile wide. Lay a 5 ft. thick sheet of ice on that, and you have a huge ice mass to be moved out to sea every spring. In blocks the size of houses and cars. These jam together as they are swept along and get lodged, sometimes for a day or so, which can cause massive flooding. Each year is different and we never know.

Marysienka--and such an odd little corner it is! I'm glad you enjoy reading about it. I often say that Bethel is not for everybody; but for those of us who love it, it is wonderful, and a unique little spot to call home. Thanks for visiting, and for your encouragement.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 8:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Dawn said...

WOW! Great pictures. I've read about break ups before, but your pictures really bring the story to life. Hope the flooding isn't too bad.
(P.S....are you the mosquito meal of choice when you are out with a group? I always am!) Go those things!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 1:19:00 PM  
Blogger TheTundraPA said...

Dawn--thanks! I think the photos help a lot too. This place is SO different from most people's experience that it is hard to imagine without images. Unfortunately, I'm having a heck of a time with Blogger trying to load them up. I spend 5 minutes per photo waiting for the "uploading your photo" box to say DONE, but when I click that and check the post, there is no photo. Does anybody else have that problem?

Regarding mosquitoes, I am fortunate; I'm not a mosquito-bait person. There is one in every crowd, and the rest of us appreciate the job you guys do for us! Has something to do with the salt level in your sweat, or something like that, I've heard. Nevertheless, I'm spraying on the Backwoods Cutter's just like everybody else.

Thursday, May 25, 2006 9:36:00 AM  
Blogger wolfbaby said...

The Pictures are amazing. Is the grinding really loud? We had an ice storm couple years back and it was kinda spooky at night. I love all the pics you include in your post!!!

Saturday, May 27, 2006 6:08:00 AM  
Blogger emily garnhart said...

I found your blog interesting and useful. I added your blog to my favorites and i will come to visit again tomorrow. I have a blog about how to get him back after a break up :)

Sunday, October 17, 2010 3:37:00 AM  

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