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Breaking up unlikely to be hard to do this spring

by Phillip Manning ~ April 28th, 2014

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The National Weather Service is currently predicting an uneventful breakup for the Susitna River.  Dave Streubel with the Alaska-Pacific River Forecast Center says that the Upper Valley can expect breakup very soon.

“During the next few days, we expect the main stem of the Susitna river [and] a lot of the tributaries to begin breaking up.”

That puts the Susitna right on schedule.  According to the River Forecast Center, the average date for breakup on the river is May 1st.  As of now, the forecast calls for the river to shed its ice sometime right around the end of the month.

Breakup can cause anxiety in the Upper Valley with its tendency to cause high water and occasional flooding.  This year, however, Dave Streubel says there’s less to worry about.

“All indications are, due to the snow pack being less than normal, along with nice weather that we’ve had over the last couple weeks, that the threat of high water from breakup ice jams is less than normal.”

Ice jams happen when floating ice gets bunched up in the channel, stopping the normal flow of water.  When that happens, the water tries to find another route.  That can mean rising river levels.  Then, when the ice jam is finally forced out by building water pressure, it can mean a sudden rush of water downstream.  While the risk is low this year, Dave Streubel says it’s not entirely out of the question.

“There’s always a potential that everything comes together right and we get an ice jam [that] causes some high water, but right now we’re not expecting anything out of the ordinary in terms of flood threat.”

The latest info on breakup forecasts and river levels can be found at the Alaska-Pacific River Forecast website.

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