Water starts to recede in flooded Alaska town

Friday, May 8th 2009, 11:40 am
By: News 9

EAGLE, Alaska (AP) -- An ice jam near a tiny Alaska village that caused heavy flooding and knocked several buildings off their foundations has broken, allowing the swollen Yukon River to recede, authorities said.
   The floodwaters receded near Eagle by about 20 feet early Thursday from their peak level, observers estimated. The Yukon's flood levels at Eagle, about 200 miles east of Fairbanks, was 34 feet.
   "The main part of Eagle town and some of the roads are starting to drain out," National Weather Service hydrologist Ed Plumb said Thursday.
   The flood and ice jacked buildings from foundations and uprooted stout pine trees before the ice broke apart. The surge drove ice well above a steel retaining wall designed to protect downtown's Front Street.
   Residents gathered at the Eagle Community School for a meeting but regrouped on a bluff overlooking the river when they heard the jam broke.
   "Suddenly, when somebody announced the ice was moving for the first time in two days, everyone jumped," said Chris Allan, a historian with the National Park Service.
   With water levels down, emergency workers will focus on accounting for Eagle residents and, as best they can, for people living at isolated homesteads scattered for miles along the banks of the Yukon River.
   On Thursday, satellite dishes and pallets littered muddy dirt streets near the waterfront, scattered among boulders of ice. Icebergs the size of small boats drifted by in the current.
   At least four buildings were knocked off their foundations. Two of them, an old log cabin used as a storage shed and an old sauna, were carried down the river.
   Ice chunks, some the size of houses, pushed out of the riverbank and damaged buildings along Front Street. Officials say some can't be salvaged.
   There also has been flooding downstream in the village of Circle, including reports of 20 inches of water in one store. Water also was receding in Circle and river ice was moving past the village, but the community was expected to see more water.
   "There is going to more water coming down with the release at Eagle, that 20-foot drop, it's going to send a surge of water down river and coming toward Circle," he said.
   Ice also crushed most of the buildings in Eagle Village, a tiny community just east of the city of Eagle, on Tuesday. A road linking the city and the village was shut by shelf ice.
   A rescue team delivered two helicopter loads of water and food to Eagle Village on Tuesday, and hauled in more water, fuel and supplies on an ATV trail Wednesday.
   Gov. Sarah Palin, who on Wednesday issued a disaster declaration for areas of interior Alaska, canceled weekend meetings and appearances on the East Coast to survey hard-hit communities.
   Palin's disaster declaration includes the drainages of the Yukon, Kuskokwim, Kobus and Susitna rivers. It allows greater coordination between state agencies, and will provide easier access to state disaster relief funds and receipt of federal funds if there is a federal disaster declaration.