Saturday, May 09, 2009

'Tsunami' Of Ice Wreaks Havoc On Alaskan Town

by Dan Bross
All Things Considered, May 8, 2009

Temperatures in some parts of Alaska soared into the 70s this week, causing a rapid "melt-out" of ice and snow along the Yukon River and unprecedented flooding that nearly wiped out the small community of Eagle.

The historic gold rush outpost sits on the upper reaches of the Yukon River on the eastern edge of Alaska, along the border with Canada.

"The Front Street buildings, the store, the museum, the shop, some houses and storage buildings all have been basically destroyed," says resident John Borg, 41.

An aerial view shows at least two dozen buildings submerged in a sea of car-sized ice chunks and 30 feet of muddy floodwater on Tuesday.

Borg says the high water eclipses anything in Eagle's recorded history, including the previous peak flood in 1937.

"Nothing, nothing compared to what we have here," he says. "It's just mind-boggling to look across the river and see all this ice at an elevation no one has ever seen before."

Borg says the Yukon rose 30 feet over its normal level when 4- to 7-foot-thick ice pans surged downstream, choking the river and bulldozing islands and shorelines. The devastation stretches for miles up and down the river, where trees have been sheared off and muddy banks scooped away like chocolate ice cream.

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