FAIRBANKS — Low-lying areas of Fort Yukon were under water Monday, a day after breakup on the Yukon River left 15 homes uninhabitable in Circle.
The Yukon River moved past Fort Yukon late Monday morning, and village officials reported to the National Weather Service that the frontage road was impassable and water was up to the steps of the tribal hall.
The ice had jammed about 15 miles upriver from Fort Yukon until it broke Monday morning. The flood warning for Fort Yukon remains in effect until 4 p.m. Tuesday.
“One concern that we have is that downstream from Fort Yukon, the River Watch Team noted the ice is intact and looks stronger than the ice upriver from Fort Yukon,” said National Weather Service hydrologist Ed Plumb from his office in Fairbanks.
That means there is potential for the breakup front — or the boundary between ice that’s still in place from the winter and ice that is moving — to get hung up downstream of Fort Yukon.
Plumb said that could mean “the water would then back up into Fort Yukon and flooding could get worse if it gets stalled out downstream.”
“We’re expecting some minor flooding, but there is potential for more significant flooding if an ice jam does form below Fort Yukon,” he said.
Residents in Circle took refuge at the post office, school and store when the Yukon River flooded Sunday, Circle Tribal Council First Chief Jessica Boyle told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
There were no injuries, but a group of elders became stuck in a vehicle and got a lift in the bucket of a front-end loader that happened to be passing by.
State officials said water rose 5 to 8 feet and flooded most buildings in the community of 113 before retreating in the afternoon.
The water came up to the steps of the school after it rose quickly Sunday morning, said Michael John, the maintenance manager at the Circle School.
Flooding left a foot of water in the school’s basement, he said.
Circle is a historic mining community at the end of the Steese Highway about 125 miles northeast of Fairbanks. Fort Yukon, with a population of about 585, is about 70 miles northwest of Circle.
The National Weather Service said a flood warning remains in effect until 4 p.m. Tuesday for Fort Yukon, and watches are in effect for other downriver communities, including Beaver, Stevens Village and Tanana.
Plumb said he expects the breakup front to pass Tanana later this week.