Rural Areas Along Kuskokwim Fear Flooding
But communities say this year they’re prepared
ALASKA - The village of Crooked Creek was virtually wiped out by floods last year. Now it looks like there will be more flooding for that community and others along the Kuskokwim River this year.
Nobody wants to see what happened to Crooked Creek ever again. But with above-normal snow pack in most of the state to go along with potential ice jams, the river forecast center says it’s a better than average chance significant flooding will happen in interior villages, which means Crooked Creek might have to live through the nightmare again.
It's a scene families in Crooked Creek will never forget: Residents displaced, homes destroyed, roads underwater; all because of floods from the Kuskokwim full of water and ice.
“When we saw the water coming, it was coming up so fast," said Crooked Creek resident Helen Macar, whose family’s home was destroyed back in May 2011. “Right before I left the house, I put a holy picture on the deck and said a few prayers and left. I started crying after that.”
The village has been rebuilt since then but this year, it could be deja vu. The Alaska Pacific River Forecast center says Interior villages could be hit the hardest by spring floods. Forecasters say places like McGrath, Aniak and Crooked Creek need to be prepared.
“That is a key indicator that in years past that we can have more significant breakup flooding,” said Alaska Pacific River Forecast Hydrologist Dave Streubel. “This time of year preparedness for ice jam flooding is the key thing.”
Last year, Crooked Creek was not prepared, and got a lot of help. But this time around, the president of the Crooked Creek Tribal Council says the community is ready.
“There's going to be people staying up night and day, watching the water level and the ice activity,” said Evelyn Thomas. All the homes are now on higher ground except for Evelyn's bed and breakfast. “It’s just me that still down in the dike of the river.”
She's got a plan, though. “It will be nerve-racking every year from now on, but as soon as it looks a little bit iffy, we've got guys around town that will come running over and help me move everything upstairs.”
The residents of Crooked Creek are praying for the best but preparing for the worst. Evelyn said she went through the recorded history by previous generations in Crooked Creek and says there are no records of floods like the one that destroyed their village last year.
For information on the Alaska spring flood forecast for the entire state click here.