River Watch teams prepared to launch as river break-up begins

by Jeremy Zidek

The State of Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHS&EM) is assisting communities in preparation for breakup along Alaska’s major river systems this spring. Breakup is a time of both excitement and anxiety. Residents anticipate the ability to travel along the rivers, but are also concerned with the threat that ice jam flooding poses to their communities.
Each spring the River Watch program renews a partnership between DHS&EM and the National Weather Service (NWS). The Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center and DHS&EM conduct aerial observations of rivers prone to ice jam flooding. The team provides flood warnings and assists communities responding to flood emergencies. The River Watch partnership has existed for more than 30 years. The first River Watch team is planning to begin surveillance flights on the Upper Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers the first week of May.
“The spring breakup flood potential is currently rated as low to low-moderate statewide. We have seen these types of forecast in years with no significant flooding, and similar forecast years with major flooding. River breakup is a dynamic event and the best way to identify dangerous conditions is to fly the river and evaluate the ice as it moves,” said Bryan Fisher, DHS&EM Chief of Operations. “As we have for many years, River Watch will be in place to provide up-to-date flood information to communities, and help respond if flooding occurs.”
The NWS Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center reports the potential for flooding as average for most parts of the state. This year’s breakup map and flood potential can be found at http://www.weather.gov/aprfc/floodpotential
The River Watch teams, NWS, and DHS&EM will be providing up-to-date river information on Twitter through the hashtag #AKRiverWatch. Follow the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management on Twitter @AlaskaDHSEM and on Facebook.