Upriver travel has just gotten harder. Ice crews have removed road markers between Tuluksak and Kalskag and are advising no more truck traffic between these points. That means people upriver will be staying in place or shelling out money for airfare until breakup.
“It’s just time to be done with trucking. It’ll still be good for snow machines for a while,” Bethel Search and Rescue Member Mark Leary said.
Leary says the combined effects of dark sand warming the top of the ice and the current flowing under the ice is creating an unstable surface for trucks.
“We had some of those days when that north wind was howling, and it was blowing sand like crazy,” Leary said. “Sometimes it looked like smoke over the river there was so much sand.”The amped current comes from last week’s snow suddenly falling and then quickly melting. The sand comes from an overall lack of snow through the winter, leaving the ground exposed to wind and creating sand drifts on the ice.
Leary measures ice thickness for the National Weather. His last measurements in mid-March showed ice reaching 33 inches in Aniak and 36 inches in Napaimute, lengths he calls below average for this time of year.
“I don’t know if there’s such a thing anymore as a normal year, but what we used to see is ice in the 40’s or more,” Leary said.
Leary says many open holes never froze this winter, another anomaly for the Kuskokwim. He says no new holes are forming, but the ice is dropping off at the edges and side sloughs are also opening.