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With Galena a ghost town, Koyukuk braces for 'flash flood'

Kyle Hopkins
Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013. The airport is at top of photograph.
Unknown
A dozer pushes Yukon River ice out of the way as crews look for Circle's fresh water well Monday, May 20, 2013. The well needs to be tested after an ice jam Sunday morning caused the river to rise rapidly flooding the village 160 miles northwest of Fairbanks.
Sam Harrel
ANDREW NEASON / Alaska State Troopers Water rose rapidly five to eight feet Sunday morning May 19, 2013 in Circle, Alaska, reaching or flooding the majority of structures in town.
ANDREW NEASON
Iditarod musher Jon Korta's dog yard remains full of water Monday, June 3, 2013, after the Yukon River flooded Galena, Alaska last week. With water as high as his window sills, Korta spent two days in his 24-foot boat tied to his house along with his wife, son and 12 sled dogs. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel)
SAM HARREL
David Lee Galena is seeing major flooding caused by ice damming on the Yukon River. David Lee took these photos May 27, 2013 between 8AM and 9AM.
David Lee
Photo courtesy Ed Plumb (NWS) Yukon River flooding at Galena on May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
Unknown
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Ed Christensen
ANDREW NEASON / Alaska State Troopers Water rose rapidly five to eight feet Sunday morning May 19, 2013 in Circle, Alaska, reaching or flooding the majority of structures in town.
ANDREW NEASON
John Korta's car dries out on Monday, June 3, 2013 in Galena, Alaska. The car had been under water after the area was flooded. The flood caused by ice clogging the Yukon River submerged some homes, washed out the road to the community's landfill and knocked out power. On Monday, emergency responders were developing a strategy to collect spoiled meat and fly it by helicopter to the dump, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel)
SAM HARREL
Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
Unknown
Photo courtesy Ed Plumb (NWS) Yukon River flooding at Galena on May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
Unknown
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Ed Christensen
Photo by Scott Lindsey, National Weather Service Aerial photo of Yukon River flooding at Circle on Sunday morning, May 19, 2013.
Scott Lindsey
This June 2, 2013 photo shows Louden Loop in Galena, Alaska, after the area was flooded. The flood caused by ice clogging the Yukon River submerged some homes, washed out the road to the community's landfill and knocked out power. On Monday, emergency responders were developing a strategy to collect spoiled meat and fly it by helicopter to the dump, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. (AP Photo/The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel)
SAM HARREL
Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
Unknown
Photo courtesy Ed Plumb (NWS) Yukon River flooding at Galena on May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013. The airport is at top of photograph.
Unknown
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Ed Christensen
Photo by Scott Lindsey, National Weather Service Aerial photo of Yukon River flooding at Circle on Sunday morning, May 19, 2013.
Scott Lindsey
Photo courtesy Ed Plumb (NWS) Yukon River flooding at Galena on May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013. The airport is at top of photograph.
Unknown
Photo courtesy Ed Plumb (NWS) Yukon River flooding at Galena on May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
Unknown
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Ed Christensen
Yukon River at Eagle, Alaska on May 16, 2013.
John Borg
Photo courtesy Ed Plumb (NWS) Yukon River flooding at Galena on May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
Unknown
Ed Plumb / National Weather Service A Galena resident and his dogs were trapped in the boat for over two days. May 29, 2013. Galena was inundated by Yukon River flood waters, caused by an ice jam at the end of May 2013.
Ed Plumb
Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
Unknown
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Ed Christensen
Yukon River flooding at Eagle City, Alaska on May 17, 2013.
Unknown
Photo courtesy Ed Plumb (NWS) Yukon River flooding at Galena on May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
Unknown
Ed Plumb / National Weather Service Galena was inundated by Yukon River flood waters, caused by an ice jam at the end of May 2013.
Ed Plumb
Aerial view of the Yukon River flooding at Fort Yukon on Tuesday, May 21, 2013. Flood waters line the airport at left of photograph.
Unknown
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses in Eagle have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Photo by Ed Christensen
Yukon River flooding at Eagle, Alaska on May 17, 2013.
Unknown
Photo courtesy Ed Plumb (NWS) Yukon River flooding at Galena on May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013. The airport is at top of photograph.
Unknown
Ed Plumb / National Weather Service Galena was inundated by Yukon River flood waters, caused by an ice jam May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Aerial view of the Yukon River flooding at Fort Yukon on Monday, May 20, 2013. Flood waters line the airport at top of photograph.
Unknown
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses in Eagle have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Photo by Ed Christensen
Yukon River ice at mouth of the Fortymile River on May 18, 2013.
Unknown
Ed Plumb / National Weather Service A Galena resident and his dogs were trapped in the boat for over two days. May 29, 2013. Galena was inundated by Yukon River flood waters, caused by an ice jam at the end of May 2013.
Ed Plumb
Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
Unknown
Ed Plumb / National Weather Service Galena was inundated by Yukon River flood waters, caused by an ice jam at the end of May 2013.
Ed Plumb
The town of Galena, Alaska flooded as the Yukon River overflowed during the breakup of winter ice. Thirty-two residents and nineteen dogs were transported on an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 “Hercules” aircraft from Galena to Fairbanks May 28 to wait for the water levels to subside. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public AffairsPhoto by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs
Sgt. Edward Eagerton
Aerial view of Yukon RIver flooding at Fort Yukon, Alaska on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
Unknown
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses in Eagle have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Photo by Ed Christensen
Yukon RIver ice damage at Eagle, Alaska on May 18, 2013.
Unknown
Ed Plumb / National Weather Service Galena was inundated by Yukon River flood waters, caused by an ice jam at the end of May 2013.
Ed Plumb
Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
Unknown
The town of Galena, Alaska flooded as the Yukon River overflowed during the breakup of winter ice. Thirty-two residents and nineteen dogs were transported on an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 “Hercules” aircraft from Galena to Fairbanks May 28 to wait for the water levels to subside. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs
Sgt. Edward Eagerton
Aerial view of Yukon RIver flooding at Fort Yukon, Alaska on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
Unknown
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Ed Christensen
Yukon River flooding at Eagle, Alaska on May 18, 2013.
Unknown
Ed Plumb / National Weather Service Galena was inundated by Yukon River flood waters, caused by an ice jam May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Aerial view of the Yukon River flooding at Fort Yukon on Tuesday, May 21, 2013. Flood waters line the airport at left of photograph.
Unknown
Alaska Air National Guardsmen Staff Sgt. Colton Nelson (left), a loadmaster with the 144th Airlift Squadron, and Master Sgt. Brandon Stuemke, a pararescueman with the 212th Rescue Squadron, escort residents of Galena, Alaska to an awaiting C-130 “Hercules” to be transported to Fairbanks, May 28. Thirty-two residents and nineteen dogs were transported on an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 “Hercules” aircraft from Galena to Fairbanks to wait for the water levels to subside. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public AffairsThe Alaska National Guard sent multiple aircraft and rescue personnel to the rural Alaska village to assist with rescue efforts. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs
Sgt. Edward Eagerton
Aerial view of Yukon RIver near Fort Yukon, Alaska on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
Unknown
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Ed Christensen
Yukon RIver near Eagle, Alaska on May 18, 2013.
Unknown
Ed Plumb / National Weather Service Galena was inundated by Yukon River flood waters, caused by an ice jam at the end of May 2013.
Ed Plumb
Aerial view of the Yukon River flooding at Fort Yukon on Monday, May 20, 2013. Flood waters line the airport at top of photograph.
Unknown
Pararescuemen with the 212th Rescue Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard help residents of Galena, Alaska into a C-130 “Hercules” during an evacuation of the town, May 28. Galena flooded as the Yukon River overflowed during the breakup of winter ice. Residents of the town were transported to Fairbanks to wait for the water levels to subside. The Alaska National Guard sent multiple aircraft and rescue personnel to the rural Alaska village to assist with rescue efforts. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs
Sgt. Edward Eagerton
Satellite image of the Yukon River on May 19, 2013.
Unknown
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Pat Sanders
Yukon River flooding at Eagle, Alaska on May 17, 2013.
Unknown
The town of Galena, Alaska flooded as the Yukon River overflowed during the breakup of winter ice. Thirty-two residents and nineteen dogs were transported on an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 “Hercules” aircraft from Galena to Fairbanks May 28 to wait for the water levels to subside. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public AffairsPhoto by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs
Sgt. Edward Eagerton
Aerial view of Yukon RIver flooding at Fort Yukon, Alaska on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
Unknown
Aerial view of Yukon RIver flooding at Fort Yukon, Alaska on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
Unknown
Paul Apfelbeck Galena resident Paul Apfelbeck and other residents flew to Fairbanks via an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 Tuesday, May 28, 2013.
Paul Apfelbeck
Photo courtesy National Weather Service Yukon River ice rests near a cabin in Circle during flooding on May 21, 2013.
Unknown
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Pat Sanders
Yukon RIver ice at Eagle, Alaska on May 19, 2013.
Unknown
The town of Galena, Alaska flooded as the Yukon River overflowed during the breakup of winter ice. Thirty-two residents and nineteen dogs were transported on an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 “Hercules” aircraft from Galena to Fairbanks May 28 to wait for the water levels to subside. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs
Sgt. Edward Eagerton
Jon Korta rips up his hardwood floor Monday, June 3, 2013, after the Yukon River flooded Galena, Alaska last week. The flood caused by ice clogging the Yukon River submerged some homes, washed out the road to the community's landfill and knocked out power. On Monday, emergency responders were developing a strategy to collect spoiled meat and fly it by helicopter to the dump, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. (AP Photo/The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel)
Sam Harrel
Aerial view of Yukon RIver near Fort Yukon, Alaska on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
Unknown
David Lee Galena is seeing major flooding caused by ice damming on the Yukon River. David Lee took these photos May 27, 2013 between 8AM and 9AM.
David Lee
Yukon River ice near Stevens Village on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
Unknown
Ice from the Yukon River melts in the yard of Paul Nathaniel on Monday morning, May 20, 2013, at Circle. An ice jam Sunday morning caused the river to rise rapidly flooding the village 160 miles northwest of Fairbanks. According to Nathaniel's brother, Sam Nathaniel, the cabin was located to the left of the van before the ice pushed it off it's foundation.
Sam Harrel
Yukon RIver ice at Eagle, Alaska on May 18, 2013.
Unknown
Alaska Air National Guardsmen Staff Sgt. Colton Nelson (left), a loadmaster with the 144th Airlift Squadron, and Master Sgt. Brandon Stuemke, a pararescueman with the 212th Rescue Squadron, escort residents of Galena, Alaska to an awaiting C-130 “Hercules” to be transported to Fairbanks, May 28. Thirty-two residents and nineteen dogs were transported on an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 “Hercules” aircraft from Galena to Fairbanks to wait for the water levels to subside. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public AffairsThe Alaska National Guard sent multiple aircraft and rescue personnel to the rural Alaska village to assist with rescue efforts. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs
Sgt. Edward Eagerton
Iditarod musher Jon Korta's dog yard remains full of water Monday, June 3, 2013, after the Yukon River flooded Galena, Alaska last week. With water as high as his window sills, Korta spent two days in his 24-foot boat tied to his house along with his wife, son and 12 sled dogs. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel)
SAM HARREL
Satellite image of the Yukon River on May 19, 2013.
Unknown
Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
Unknown
A structure damaged by Yukon River ice during the flooding in Circle on May 21, 2013.
Unknown
ANDREW NEASON / Alaska State Troopers Water rose rapidly five to eight feet Sunday morning May 19, 2013 in Circle, Alaska, reaching or flooding the majority of structures in town.
ANDREW NEASON
Yukon River ice at Eagle, Alaska on May 18, 2013.
Unknown
Pararescuemen with the 212th Rescue Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard help residents of Galena, Alaska into a C-130 “Hercules” during an evacuation of the town, May 28. Galena flooded as the Yukon River overflowed during the breakup of winter ice. Residents of the town were transported to Fairbanks to wait for the water levels to subside. The Alaska National Guard sent multiple aircraft and rescue personnel to the rural Alaska village to assist with rescue efforts. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs
Sgt. Edward Eagerton
John Korta's car dries out on Monday, June 3, 2013 in Galena, Alaska. The car had been under water after the area was flooded. The flood caused by ice clogging the Yukon River submerged some homes, washed out the road to the community's landfill and knocked out power. On Monday, emergency responders were developing a strategy to collect spoiled meat and fly it by helicopter to the dump, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel)
SAM HARREL
Photo courtesy National Weather Service Yukon River ice rests near a cabin in Circle during flooding on May 21, 2013.
Unknown
Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
Unknown
Sam Nathaniel climbs over a log following his neighbor Gary Bessette as they climb over blocks of Yukon River ice Monday, May 20, 2013, at Circle. An ice jam Sunday morning caused the river to rise rapidly flooding the village 160 miles northwest of Fairbanks. Bessette, behind Nathaniel, had spend the night with his canoe after evacuating his home as it flooded.
Sam Harrel
ANDREW NEASON / Alaska State Troopers Water rose rapidly five to eight feet Sunday morning May 19, 2013 in Circle, Alaska, reaching or flooding the majority of structures in town.
ANDREW NEASON
Jon Korta rips up his hardwood floor Monday, June 3, 2013, after the Yukon River flooded Galena, Alaska last week. The flood caused by ice clogging the Yukon River submerged some homes, washed out the road to the community's landfill and knocked out power. On Monday, emergency responders were developing a strategy to collect spoiled meat and fly it by helicopter to the dump, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. (AP Photo/The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel)
Sam Harrel
Paul Apfelbeck Galena resident Paul Apfelbeck and other residents flew to Fairbanks via an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 Tuesday, May 28, 2013.
Paul Apfelbeck
This June 2, 2013 photo shows Louden Loop in Galena, Alaska, after the area was flooded. The flood caused by ice clogging the Yukon River submerged some homes, washed out the road to the community's landfill and knocked out power. On Monday, emergency responders were developing a strategy to collect spoiled meat and fly it by helicopter to the dump, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. (AP Photo/The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel)
SAM HARREL

Lookouts stood high on Koyukuk Mountain Wednesday, watching the Yukon River below with binoculars and hunting scopes.

"We're looking at a flash flood. Something like a dam breaking," said Koyukuk Mayor Patrick Madros.

Koyukuk sits about 14 miles downriver from the ice jam that caused massive flooding and a near-complete evacuation of Galena this week. It's the latest community to put life on hold as the annual river breakup winds down the Yukon.

The ice dam began flooding Galena on Sunday and by Wednesday an estimated 300 or more people had fled by plane to Fairbanks, Anchorage or other villages. The local school district estimated 30 to 40 people stayed behind, camping with their dogs at the airport, taking shelter in former Air Force barracks and eating military-style "meals ready to eat."

The jam showed signs of weakening by 11 a.m. Wednesday, and by 5 p.m. the Weather Service reported that part of the dam had peeled away. It was still blocking the river, but water levels had already began rising downstream, the agency said.

The Weather Service expected the jam to break and water to began draining from Galena by late Wednesday or Thursday. When it does, a surge of water was expected to flood Koyukuk, where the service has issued a flood warning through 4 p.m. Thursday.

The damage to Galena has been devastating, said Weather Service hydrologist Ed Plumb.

Plumb has been stationed in Galena, where a dike surrounding the airport and a few government buildings has created a dry "island" in the middle of bobbing ice and debris.

"There's a lot of cars that are totally submerged in water and floating around," Plumb said. "There are houses that are totally submerged in water up to the roof."

"You can see sheens of fuel across the floodwaters and spilled fuel tanks," Plumb said. Water inundated the sewage lagoon, which "is just part of the flood now," he said.

There is no power in the village, no working bathrooms and limited food. "All we've had is the shirt on our backs," Plumb said.

The flooding began with a few fingers of water covering the roads, said Paul Apfelbeck, a teacher. Sometime on Monday afternoon it began to surge, seemingly climbing by a foot at a time. It sounded like Niagara Falls, he said.

"People were scrambling all over the neighborhood, putting their cars up on higher ground."

Apfelbeck flew to Fairbanks late Tuesday on an Alaska Air National Guard HC-130. The plane carried 32 people and 19 dogs. Alaska State Troopers flew another six people and seven pets to Fairbanks at about the same time.

Some Galena residents, including schools superintendent Chris Reitan, said the state waited too long to help with widespread evacuations given the alarming surge of flood waters Monday night. No one has been killed or reported missing. Nearly every home in town has been damaged, residents said.

Gov. Sean Parnell visited Galena Tuesday and members of his cabinet met Wednesday to discuss whether the state should declare a disaster emergency, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

A disaster declaration could unlock state relief money for the village, he said. The state Emergency Management team in Galena asked for additional supplies for those remaining in the community, including 10 cases of bottled water and 12 cases of MREs.

In Koyukuk, a Koyukon Athabascan community about 30 miles downriver, residents were already preparing for the worst, Madros said.

They hauled water and wood to higher ground. They prepared to shut the power off in the town of about 75 people and evacuated the sick and elderly Tuesday on a plane to Fairbanks. Madros, the mayor, stood on flood watch from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday.

"This is the worst flood we've ever seen in Galena so we're expecting a lot of water once that dam breaks to come this way," he said.

The Weather Service expects the surge to take about four hours to reach Koyukuk once the ice jam breaks. The water will arrive in a wave, the flood warning says.

Twitter updates: twitter.com/adn_kylehopkins. Call Kyle Hopkins at 257-4334 or email him at khopkins@adn.com.

 

 

Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center
By KYLE HOPKINS
khopkins@adn.com