Alaska River Watch and Fire Status

State Fire Status

River Watch Program

10 AM AKDT WED MAR 10 2021


The spring breakup flood potential for major rivers in Alaska is
considered as follows:

..Kuskokwim River: Above average

..North Slope Rivers: Below average

..Koyukuk Rivers: Below average

..Tanana, Yukon, and Copper Rivers: Average

..Rivers along Turnagain Arm, Gulf of Alaska, and northern Southeast
Panhandle: Above average

..Other Rivers across Alaska: Average

This outlook is based on observed snowpack, ice thickness reports,
and long-range air temperature forecasts. It is important to
remember that while Alaska has experienced mostly mild winters for
the past decade, that `average` is defined over a longer period.
Average flood potential may be higher than in recent memory.

River Ice: March ice thickness data are available for a limited
number of observing sites in Alaska. Late February/early March
measurements indicate that ice thickness is near average across the
state with an exception being at the Yukon River near Galena, which
is below normal. Cumulative freezing degree days are above average
at sites along the Gulf of Alaska (i.e. colder than normal) and the
northern Southeast Panhandle, but normal or somewhat below normal

Snowpack: analysis of the March 1st snowpack by the Natural
Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) indicates greater than normal
snowpack in the Kuskokwim Basin, 150% of average. The Koyukuk River
basin and the North Slope have snowpacks significantly below normal.
The Yukon and Copper River basins and the rest of the Interior have
relatively normal snowpacks. Snowpacks in basins along the Gulf of
Alaska and the northern Southeast panhandle are significantly above
normal in some locations.

Climate Outlook: the most important factor determining the severity
of ice breakup remains the weather during April and May. Dynamic
breakups with a high potential for ice jam flooding typically
require cooler than average temperatures for most of April followed
by an abrupt transition to warm, summer-like temperatures in late
April to early May. The outlook for March suggests an increased
chance of below average temperatures over southern Alaska and above
average temperatures over the North Slope. The longer, 3-month
outlook, which includes March, April, and May, also indicates
increased chances of below average temperatures in southern Alaska,
and above average temperatures in northern and northwestern Alaska.

The next Spring Breakup Outlook is planned for the second week in
April, 2021.

Current River Watch Flood Map

Discussions have begun with the Alaska Weather Forecasting offices.  There are some disturbing facts that may affect Alaska severally as breakup begins and spring continues. It is noted the ground is still frozen, the temperatures are rising and now the storms coming in are mainly rain and could become heavy.  So as happens every year, the ice breaks up and begins to flow down river, blocking areas and causing flooding.  Since the ground is still frozen and snow is melting in the mountains and low lands, there is no place to go except into the rivers, rising the levels.

As I had put out earlier we have been asked to assist the Fairbanks and Anchorage Weather Forecast offices by submitting reports of what we have observed.  As hams scattered around Alaska and near a lot of river and streams we would be the first to observe the water rising.  So as discussion continue with the various forecasting offices, we need to prepare for 2 things.  One lets take notice of the level of the water in are area, either driving around, at home or while flying.  First of all be very careful, we don't need to travel a lot yet until we get control of this crazy virus.  2nd, if your area has flooded in the past, its going to flood this year like the worst flood we have had in the past.  Get your important items packed in waterproof containers.  Some times zip log bags, Tupperware and storage containers can save our pictures, important papers, books and electronics.

I have been putting out info and links as to where you can go to get weather spotter training and begin training for our new ALASKA SKYWARN program we are developing.  Harry/AL6F works for the Fairbanks weather office (KL7FWX) and they have a complete ham station, with Winlink established. for emergencies.  Harry is heading up our SKYWARN program.  Carol and I have taken the weather spotter training several times and just completed it on line again, but if you haven't, go to the links I provided on the MARA ARES website and take the course.  There is a great reference book and a small test at the end. That is step one.  Next will be the SKYWARN courses that goes further into what it's about.

SKYWARN is very critical in the lower 48 where they have hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding.  Well all we have is earthquakes, flooding and snow and wind storms.  So with our unique capabilities and scattered like we are we can pass this valuable info onto the weather forecast offices to help them do their job better and could help save your neighbor and friends.  Now you may not want to be an official spotter, that's fine, but at least you have a little knowledge that would help you to help us.

To start, safely go to your near river and streams where you've seen flooding in the past and will probably see again and put in a marker, or put a surveying tape on a tree at the edge, something for a starting reference and log in the time and date, location, (lat and long if you have it), and check it about the same time each day. Driving back and forth to the store or work once we get back to it, check it and keep track of what you find.  Maybe you have an old broken measure tape fasten it to the marker or tree so you can use binoculars from a safe distance to see how the levels have changed.  Is there ice flowing are trees or ice blocking the river or stream. Do we have erosion picking up that may affect a house, neighborhood, or road?  It doesn't take you long and it is very important.

Start monitoring the VHF and HF nets and pass info along to the Net Control or get a message to me, Don/KL7JFT or Harry/AL6F.  Hear are some links that you can use to find out about flood warnings:

River Summary

Interactive River Map

Now to report weather or flooding go to these sites and please email KL7JFT and AL6F or if you have any questions.

RFC/River Forecast Center

For Fairbanks AOR:

For Anchorage AOR: