Glacial Outburst Floods Mendenhall Lake, River

Flood waters are starting to recede in Juneau’s Mendenhall Valley, though a National Weather Service flood warning remains in effect until 10 o’clock Thursday night for the Mendenhall Lake and Mendenhall River. The lake started rising Tuesday afternoon, and by this morning, the lake and river were rising inches an hour. Travis Mason Bushman is a ranger at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center.

By Thursday morning, Mendenhall River was more than two feet beyond flood stage. A road nearby was closed and some residents there had water on their first floor. Some campsites at the Mendenhall Campground were flooded, and by late morning all the campers had been evacuated. The area remains closed for several days. University of Alaska Southeast Hydrologist Aaron Hood flew over the ice field today. He found an empty glacier lake on the east side of the Mendenhall.

While glacial lakes are not unusual, this one is an historical event for the Mendenhall.

The Taku River has an annual glacial outburst, and Hood says there’s a possibility this will become a more regular event for the Mendenhall as more ice melts.

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Rosemarie Alexander is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.

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