Yukon River ice jam, flooding damage 7 homes in Eagle

Fairbanks Daily News-MinerMay 17, 2013 

FAIRBANKS -- A Yukon River ice jam caused severe flooding early Friday morning in Eagle, resulting in significant damage to seven homes in the community.

The river jammed at about 12:30 a.m., causing water and ice levels to creep into the town. A National Weather Service River Watch Team reported the jam was about 12 miles downriver from Eagle at Calico Bluff.

Pat Sanders, who works for the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, said the resulting flood knocked seven homes off their foundations in Eagle, while nine other outbuildings were destroyed.

Waters began to recede after a jam in the main channel of the Yukon broke loose at about 5:30 a.m., but ice from the flood remains. Some of the affected homes remain surrounded by thick ice.

"It's just massive," Sanders said. "It's impossible to get to."

She said there were no injuries or reports of fuel contamination in the Yukon. The upriver village of Old Eagle also appears to be unaffected, although the National Weather Service reported the road between the two communities was flooded.

An observer with the State Emergency Operations Center couldn't confirm the overall building damage Friday morning, said spokesman Jeremy Zidek, but said more than a foot of water had flooded the Falcon Inn.

The National Weather Service canceled an Eagle area flood warning at about 3:30 p.m. Friday, when a downriver ice jam released. Additional jams were unlikely to cause problems in Eagle, according to the report.

The River Watch observer was doing a flyover of the Yukon River between Eagle and Circle to see if the potential for flooding existed downriver in Circle, Zidek said.

It's the second damaging flood in Eagle in recent years. A warm, fast breakup in 2009 caused massive damage to the community, leaving much of the town covered beneath a field of jumbled Yukon River ice. Eagle has fewer than 100 year-round residents, although its population swells slightly in the summer.

Sanders said Friday's flood wasn't nearly as severe. But she marveled at the prospect of river ice once again invading Eagle, which is located on a small plateau above the Yukon. In 2009, that phenomenon was dubbed a 200-year flood event.

"Believe it or not, I feel only four years older in these last 200 years," she said. "It's amazing, absolutely amazing."

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