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…
Labels: Life in Bethel