Alaska River Watch and Fire Status

State Fire Status

River Watch Program

Current PIREP Areas of Interest: Link

National Weather Service (NWS) is responsible for monitoring ice breakup conditions throughout Alaska to assess flood threats and navigational hazards. Ground observations, aerial reconnaissance, and remote sensing are sources used to assess ice conditions. Although ice jam flooding is most common during the ice breakup season, ice condition reports are welcome during freezeup and mid-winter as well.

We have relied for many years on observations of Alaska village residents describing the river ice condition in front of the village. Supplemental aerial observations from aircraft flying at low to mid-level altitudes have significantly enhanced the information on ice conditions. Since ice conditions can vary significantly along a river and can change rapidly during the breakup process, numerous observations are needed statewide to assess the status of breakup. It must be stressed that we are looking for reliable and objective reports.

The River Watch Program is a voluntary program that is...

  • Asking pilots and village residents to provide reports of river ice conditions
  • Requesting pilot observations that can be obtained without deviation from the normal route or flight level
  • Stressing that river ice observations only be taken when it can be done safely
  • Serving the purpose to assist the NWS in providing accurate forecasts, warnings, and navigation information

River and lake ice observations can be provided to the Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center (APRFC) via:

  • radio from aircraft to AFSS with observations for inclusion in a PIREP
  • phone at 1-800-847-1739
  • email report and/or photos to nws.ar.aprfc@noaa.gov

Additional information about the program and tools to download are available at the following links:

Program background:

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 www.kl7jft.org 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: