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The Susitna river is still calm before big breakup

by Lorien Nettleton ~ April 24th, 2012

The ice went out on the Tanana River at Nenana at 7:39 Monday evening, according to Cherrie Forness of the Nenana Ice Classic. It was the 4th earliest breakup the Nenana river has seen since 1917. According to National Snow and Ice data statistics, the Average date of the Tanana River’s break up is May 5th.
So far there is still little activity on the Susitna River. Lorien Nettleton has this breakup-watch report.

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Visit the Alaska and Pacific River Forecast Center’s Breakup Map

Some areas of the Susitna river have developed channels of open water near the Talkeetna area, but so far there has yet to be a monumental ice flow event.  Breakup dates for the Susitna River have been kept since 1979 by the National Weather Service’s Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center. In the last 32 years, the earliest date the ice moved was April 8th, and the latest date of breakup was May 16th.

The river conditions information has been collected and phoned in from a location on the Susitna, simply called Sunshine. The Sunshine observatory is one of hundreds around the state that call in information daily to the River Forecast Center. The information goes into a database to help people like River Forecast Center hydrologist Dave Struebel keep an eye on identify possible dangers – like a section of river that is flowing freely upstream of a section of river that hasn’t yet begun to budge.

Clip: 2RiverWatch
At a round-table event earlier this month, hydrology experts said that though there was above-average snowfall this year, there was only a  slightly elevated risk of flooding for most of south-central Alaska.

Clip3: RiverWatch

The River Forecast Center has a posted a river conditions map to its website. It’s online, and you can use it to check the conditions of a river near you. As of 8 o’clock Monday evening, a section of the Tanana River around Nenana is now light green – that’s the color-code for “some open water.” Other rivers in the state have also changed to light green – the Kuskokwim river as observed near McGrath, and the Copper river as observed near Chitina. As the ice diminishes and rivers become more and more open, they’ll transition through shades of blue on the map, until they are a shade of royal blue. Yellow or Red means there is a Flood Watch or Flood Warning.

So far, most of the water ways across the state are still white – and that’s the color code for still frozen … for now.

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