Galena Prepares for Flooding as Yukon River Ice Remains Jammed

National Weather Service staff are in Galena monitoring rising Yukon river water and conducting fly overs to check on one particular jam. At 9 pm  this (Sunday) evening, NWS hydrologist Ed Plumb said twenty miles down river from Galena ice is hung up at a notorious spot for jamming called Bishop’s Rock. Plumb says the river makes a tight bend and ice gets stuck there. He says it’s not just broken ice floating down that is catching. There is still solid river ice.

“Right at Bishop Rock there is in place ice from the winter that hasn’t moved yet, so there is a sheet about two miles long that extends upstream from Bishop Rock and above that all the ice that’s been running down the Yukon river is hung up at that point and it’s backing up. That’s about 18 miles down river from Galena and the ice is stopped here in Galena so the ice is all packed up all the way to the back of that sheet of ice and has stopped the ice from moving in the river and it’s all packed together really tight, as far as we could see above Galena.”

Plumb said the water crept up throughout the day, rising 15 feet between Sunday morning and evening.

“There is water going over the bank here in Galena and it’s starting to fill in a bunch of the old sloughs and go over several roads along the river and there are some houses and structures near the river, in Galena that have water up to them and around them.”

Greg Moyer is the interim city manager for Galena. He said he watched the water rise all day today, (Sunday). Moyer says the main road is eroding and some pipes have been exposed.

“We have opened up a shelter in town at the high school for our elders and others that want to spend the night there. But it is a wait and see game right now to see when that ice jam is gonna break.”

Plumb says two miles above Bishop’s Rock the water levels are so low, sand bars are showing.

 “All that water’s being backed up farther up river and there doesn’t appear to be enough water pressure or enough water in the river to lift that ice at this point and get it moving and spit it past Bishop’s Rock.” 

Plumb said break up is running at least two weeks later than normal. He said in Kuyokuk, the river ice is still frozen with no cracks showing. He said residents there are also concerned about flooding. Plumb says flying toward Galena this (Sunday) morning, he observed Yukon ice far up river from Galena.

 “And that was a continuous bank to bank flow from Ruby all the way to Galena to where the ice jam is, so there’s a lot of ice upriver and that’s about a 70 mile stretch of ice.”

Plumb says because break up is so late, rapid warming is a big concern. He said temperatures in Galena and Kuyukok were in the 70s today (Sunday).



Lori Townsend is the news director and senior host for Alaska Public Media. You can send her program ideas for Talk of Alaska and Alaska Insight at or call 907-350-2058.

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