Water levels dropped in the riverside village of Fort Yukon Wednesday, though Weather Service officials said major flooding remained a threat.
The Weather Service issued a flood warning for the upper Yukon River community of about 600 people through 10 a.m. Thursday. A warning means flooding is imminent or already under way.
Floodwaters covered low lying areas surrounding Fort Yukon earlier in the week but did not appear to be rising Wednesday as the annual Yukon river breakup put villages on alert. The biggest threat came from a sprawling ice jam 12 miles upriver. The blockage created a dam, pooling a lake of water as wide as 10 miles that eventually started to pour overland and drain around the jam.
"It appears that the threat from the dam releasing all at once and coming downriver has diminished," said Ed Plumb, a hydrologist for the Weather Service.
A flood watch team flying in the area found that a portion of the ice jam had released by Tuesday afternoon, allowing some of the water to drain downstream. The Yukon is still frozen downriver from Fort Yukon, however, meaning the community remains in danger of flooding if that ice does not go out or another ice jam forms.
"Water levels can rise rapidly and people along the river are encouraged to move property to higher ground away from the riverbank," the flood warning read.
Seven Fort Yukon elders were evacuated from the village to Fairbanks where they are being cared for by the Tanana Chiefs Conference, according to the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The school will serve as a shelter in case of emergency.
The City of Fort Yukon has declared a disaster emergency and asked for state assistance, according a Division of Emergency Management statement. The city urged residents to prepare emergency food and supplies in case emergency shelter or evacuation is necessary.
The Weather Service issued a flood watch for downriver villages from Beaver to Rampart through Friday afternoon.