The second-worst flood on record in the Interior Alaska community of Manley Hot Springs began to recede on Sunday, but dozens of residents were displaced and cut off from power.
An ice jam on the Tanana River happened Saturday about 12 miles downriver, causing flooding in the community of around 150 people west of Fairbanks. No injuries were reported as of Sunday afternoon, said Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman with the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
About 60 residents were displaced, with around 25 finding shelter in the Manley Hot Springs resort up the hill and others staying with family and friends, resident Kobi Purdy said.
“Everyone in the community is safe, everyone evacuated and got out,” she said in a Facebook message to Anchorage Daily News.
A state emergency manager and a National Weather Service Hydrologist went on a Civil Air Patrol flight on Sunday and saw that the ice jam on Tanana River released, Zidek said.
“This may allow water levels in Manley to drop,” Zidek said. “We’re hopeful that that is the case.”
The regional tribal organization, the Tanana Chiefs Conference, was assisting the community with power restoration, relocation and providing food, Zidek said. Alaska State Troopers sent wildlife troopers to the area with a boat to support law enforcement and rescue. The state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and the Civil Air Patrol were also involved in response, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued to disaster emergency for he area to address the flooding, second in severity only by the flood in 1956.
The state will be able to help with the recovery effort, but floodwaters need to recede before officials can determine the scope of that help, and before the power can be fully restored in the community, Zidek said.
The air temperatures in the area were expected to cool down in the beginning of the week, slowing down the snowmelt, said Craig Eckert, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fairbanks. Light rain and snow were also expected, but Eckert said precipitation won’t be a big problem.
“The waters may come up a little bit,” Eckert said, “but most of what’s happening there now is that the Tanana is just backed up, and it’s backed right up the slough and those low-lying areas there.”
Besides flooding on the Tanana river, Zidek said there was an above average flood potential in other parts of the state, including Sleetmute, Red Devil and Georgetown on the Kuskokwim River and Circle on the Yukon River.
“We have flooding along the Kuskokwim River,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Pamela Szatanek said Sunday. “People are being relocated. And people along the along the river are waiting to see if they’re the next village that has to be evacuated.”
SImilarly to Manley Hot Springs, Southwest Alaska is heading back into below normal temperatures starting Monday, Szatanek said.
Still, Zidek encouraged all residents in river-adjacent communities to consider who might need assistance — for example, seniors, medically fragile people and families with young children. He also recommended gathering critical paperwork in one place, moving vehicles away from the water and securing possessions in waterproof containers and plastic bags.
In Manley Hot Springs, “almost the whole town evacuated and every one of their homes had water inside,” Purdy said. She and her family left their house with their basement flooded to the top stair and fuel tanks, gas cans and drums floating in the yard.
When Purdy’s family went back to the house on Sunday to get important paperwork, water was 2 feet high on the main floor and all of their furniture and appliances were ruined.
“It’s devastating, and I’m crying typing this, thinking of all the things we lost and what is ruined, and thinking our house will not be livable,” she said Sunday. “There is gas, diesel, heating fuel, paint, oil, sewage all throughout the house and around town.”
Most residents lost their supplies of fuel and gas, as well as food, said Purdy’s mother, Sabrenia Jervsjo.
Sabrenia and Espen Jervsjo used a paddleboat to leave their two-story home to get to the main road and to the resort. On Sunday, Sabrenia Jervsjo returned by boat to convince her parents Frank and Diane, both in their 80s, to leave their house.
Most of the residents living close to the river did leave their houses, escaping to higher ground.
One of the owners of the Manley Hot Springs Resort, Jesse Born, said the “resort is filled with displaced families.” She said that her parents, Ken and Dee Born, drove to the resort from the Fairbanks area on Sunday afternoon to bring a 7,000-watt generator to run the resort and a water pump, as well as “bottled water, fruit, drinks and snacks for the kids and steaks for a Mother’s Day dinner for the community.”
“Everyone is scared, stressed and tired,” Purdy said. “But as a community, we’re coming together and providing what’s necessary for everyone.”