Rural Alaska

Photos: City of Galena under water as Yukon River floods

At least 129 people were evacuated from Galena in a late-night Memorial Day rescue as flood waters rose and melting ice plugged a downstream curve along the Yukon River.

"Most of the town is underwater," Ed Plumb, hydrologist with the River Forecast Center, said from Galena on Tuesday morning.

Water continues to rise.

Galena, population 470, is located west of the Interior city of Fairbanks along the historic river. Water levels rose rapidly Monday afternoon. River Forecast Center personnel left town to conduct a fly-over of the Yukon River and returned to find the Borealis B&B, where they were lodged, flooded and their possessions out of reach. Plumb spent the night at the airport, one of the few remaining spots in town not submerged.

The ice jam causing the flooding is located 20 miles downriver, at a sharp "S" curve in the river notorious for creating ice blockages. It appears to be holding in place for now. "It didn't change at all from last night," Plumb said. "I was really surprised."

Interior temperatures were in the 70s on Monday, contributing to the springtime ritual called break-up as frozen rivers melt suddenly and freshly melted water cascades down mountains, swelling rivers and streams.

FULL STORY: Galena evacuates 129 residents as Yukon River floods Interior town