Residents of Circle are cleaning up after an ice jam on the Yukon River caused extensive flooded in the community on Sunday.
Circle First Chief Jessica Boyle says the ice started breaking up around 3 a.m. Sunday, jammed downstream and sent water over a 25 foot seawall along the Yukon River.
“Came over the seawall, came up onto the roads,” Boyle said. “It just totally engulfed the whole downtown area of Circle.”
Boyle says about 15 homes were flooded, some getting as much as 3 feet of water.
“Most of the houses in the downtown area did get water in it and then a couple came off the foundations and floated into the woods behind where their house originally was,” she said.
Boyle says a community hall on higher ground, is providing housing for some while others have taken refuge with friends whose homes were not flooded. She says the community of about 80 people is a mess.
“There’s ice chunks on the roads, it’s pretty muddy, pretty messy, there’s a strong smell of diesel and gas in the downtown area,” Boyle said. “Our church got flooded, our clinic got flooded. It looks pretty rough.”
Circle’s electric generator is working and Boyle says the community has a 5,000 gallon holding tank that’s providing fresh water, but there’s concern the city well may be contaminated. She says community leaders are communicating with agencies, including the Tanana Chiefs Conference, the Red Cross for recovery assistance.
A flood warning has also been issued downstream on at Fort Yukon.
National Weather service hydrologist Ed Plumb says aerial surveillance indicates the village will likely experience high water.
“We’re expecting the break up front to push past Fort Yukon sometime later today and with all this water coming down the river,” Plumb said. “Low lying areas of Fort Yukon will likely see water go over the bank.”
Plumb says the big concern is that strong ice below Ft. Yukon will result in a jam.