Major flooding underway on Taku River near Juneau

The Taku River surpassed its major flood stage level overnight on June 29, 2021, threatening structures along its banks. (Photo courtesy of Suzanne Bavaard).

The Taku  River near Juneau has exceeded its major flood stage and its record high water level.

Major flooding is underway after a glacial dam release dumped even more water into an already swollen river.

Increased snow melt from recent heavy rains and warm temperatures pushed the river above minor flood stage on Sunday morning.

On Tuesday, the water from Lake No Lake that frequently gets dammed by the Tulsequah Glacier, entered the river from the Taku’s headwaters high in the Juneau Icefield.

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There have been other glacial dam releases around the region, including into the Mendenhall River in Juneau and the Salmon River near Hyder.

Aaron Jacobs with the National Weather Service in Juneau says most transboundary rivers in the region are already swollen with melting of the snowpack, which is as much as twice the average. After the glacial dam release ends, he says the Taku River may continue running at about minor flood levels until most snow has melted.

He also says this kind of melt is ahead of schedule.

“It seems like this year the glacial dam releases are happening a little bit earlier than we’ve seen in the past,” he said.

On Wednesday morning, a river gauge at the U.S.-Canada border registered 45.13 feet, above major flood stage.

Screenshot from the National Weather Service, taken June 30, 2021.

The National Weather Service expects flooding on the Taku River to continue and exceed 2004’s record-setting event. The river crested at  45.07 feet that year. The latest projections call for the river to crest at over 46 feet late Wednesday or early Thursday. The flood warning is in effect until Sunday.

They are warning that cabins and other structures along the river may be damaged. Boaters should watch for debris. The colder water will increase the threat of hypothermia.

Correction: A problem with a sensor at the river gauge produced an incorrect number this morning. The correct number is 45.13 feet, not 46.13 feet.

Matt Miller is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.

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