Juneau glacier monitored for possible record flooding
Scientists in Alaska are closely watching the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, for what could be record flooding in the area.
In 2016, rising flood waters coming off the glacier closed most of the Mendenhall campground. The outburst flooding raised Mendenhall Lake to nearly 12 feet, setting a new record.
Now hydrologists say in a matter of days or weeks, that could happen again -- with water levels rising even higher than ever recorded.
"The right scenario could be major flooding, could be water into homes, could be damage to homes, could be flooded roads," said Scott Lindsey, a hydrologist with the Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center. "The city of Juneau and the emergency folks are well aware of what the possibilities are."
Lindsey says the Forecast Center has developed a series of inundation maps to predict which areas would be affected by flooding.
"This is a common occurrence any place that has glaciers," Lindsey explains.
"What happens is, you've got a glacier which is ice, and it's flowing down a valley and it may be, I don't know, a hundred feet thick. And then it goes past the side valley, and the side valley fills with water. And because water is denser than ice, eventually that hydro-static pressure of the water will increase pressure at the bottom on the ice. It will actually float the ice a little bit. Once it starts to create an opening at the bottom of glacier, that opening will just get larger and larger until the lake has a pipe with which to empty -- down into the glacier and the whole thing will drain," Lindsey said.
Hydrologists are currently monitoring the Mendenhall with video cameras. Right now, Lindsey says lake levels are still rising slowly, and that scientists will have a several days heads up on where flooding will occur. He predicts the soonest rising water could affect people living in the area would be sometime next week, but it will likely be a matter of weeks before that happens.
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