Second largest flood on record hits Eagle as Yukon breaks up

Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

Ice on the Yukon River at Eagle began to move early Friday morning resulting in the second worst flood on record since a devastating flood wiped out the community’s waterfront and a nearby Alaska Native village in 2009. Damage this year was minimal in comparison and residents are relieved.

Giant chunks of ice and silt-rich water overflowed the banks of the Yukon River at Eagle near dawn Friday morning, but by mid-day, the water had receded.

National Weather Service Hydrologist Scott Lindsey was on the scene to survey the damage.  He says this year’s is the second worst flood in recorded history.

“I’ve been coming here for 12 years,” he said, “and it’s by far the worst, other than 2009 that I have seen.”

Water bubbled from the ground, creating an eerie boiling sound along the floodplain.

“Yeah, this is pretty substantial!” called Claude Denver, the Response Manager for Alaska’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

“Well, what we’re seeing here is large pans of ice that have been lifted by the high water and deposited on mission road here,” he explained.  “This is the only road between Eagle Village and the City of Eagle, so it’s a primary conduit and it’s really important that we can maintain it so it stays open.”

Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

At least six homes, a number of wood and tool sheds, vehicles and heavy machinery were damaged by truck and trailer sized blocks of ice.  A handful of telephone poles were knocked over or snapped in half as well.

David Helmer works for Alaska Power and Telephone in Eagle.

“There’s some poles that we have to take care of, cut the wires down and keep it safe for the people in the area,” said Helmer.  “Other than that, it will take homeowners rebuilding their homes before we can reconnect to them.”

Helmer was helping Falcon Inn Bed and Breakfast owner Marlys House clean up after nearly three feet of mucky water filled the bottom floor of her business.  The B&B was moved off its foundation and heavily damaged in the largest flood on record back in 2009.

“We were sitting out there thinking it was gonna be a replay of 2009,” she smiled.  “But it came up and came up and we hauled everything out of the bedroom.  We got about three feet of water.  And Charlie’s working on the boiler and we’re just drying things out.”

The Falcon Inn stands at the river’s edge above a retaining wall along Eagle’s historic Front Street. Marlys’s husband, Charlie House has since raised the building by four feet.  Despite the high water this year, he was in good spirits.

“We had to open the doors to let the water out, but we’re gonna have it all going here in a few days, so it isn’t anything like last time,” he said with a sigh of relief.

No personal injuries have been reported in either the City of Eagle or Eagle Village, 12 miles down the road.  The village did report high water, but no serious damage. Emergency Response Manager Claude Denver says it’s unlikely the state will provide individual financial disaster assistance to those affected because damage is not widespread.

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