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Ice jam keeps tensions high along Kuskokwim River

Jill Burke
More than 50 Crooked Creek residents continue taking shelter at the Donlin Creek Gold Mine, about 10 miles away.
Courtesy: Alaska Department of Natural Resources
People are moving cars, pets and belongings to higher ground and are taking other precautions like storing water, officials say.
Courtesy: Alaska Department of Natural Resources
A Crooked Creek resident stands near his boat and a home flooded by the Kusko River.
Courtesy: Alaska Department of Natural Resources
The Kuskokwim River was jammed by ice, flooding Crooked Creek
Courtesy: Alaska Department of Natural Resources
The Kuskokwim River threatened villages about 100 miles upstream of Bethel
Courtesy: Alaska Department of Natural Resources
The Kusko's flooding forced the evacuation of 53 Crooked Creek residents to nearby Donlin Creek on May 10, 2011, according to the Y-K Health Corp.
Courtesy: Alaska Department of Natural Resources
The National Weather Service issued flood warnings to the villages of Chuathbaluk and Aniak.
Courtesy: Alaska Department of Natural Resources
Relief workers from the state flew into the Y-K region to assess the damage
Courtesy: Alaska Department of Natural Resources
Medical supplies, including medications, first aid kits, hand sanitation, float coats and satellite communication equipment have been flown in, according to health officials.
Courtesy: Alaska Department of Natural Resources

The flood warning at the village of Crooked Creek along the Kuskokwim River is forecasted to remain in place through Friday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

Although the water level has dropped eight to 10 feet since the water’s 30 foot rise Monday, the ice jam causing the flooding "is still intact down river" and "flooding continues to occur over parts of the lower village," according to a witness who posted Thursday to the weather service River Forecast Center.

There was some indication the ice jam might be breaking up Wednesday, but while some ice did slowly move past the village for about 45 minutes, it stopped and by Thursday afternoon the jam remained in place, according to Jeremy Zidek with the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Down river in the village of Aniak, residents are preparing for floodwaters to hit. Jumble ice lines the river outside the village, and there is concern flooding will occur when the Crooked Creek ice jam breaks free, flows down river and intersects with the ice at Aniak.

People are moving cars, pets and belongings to higher ground and are taking other precautions like storing water, Zidek said.

"The water is slowly going down (at Crooked Creek). The dam hasn't released -- yet," Zidek said.

While river watch teams are monitoring from above by plane, the state’s "dirt team" -- the emergency personnel who arrive on site to help manage people and places in an affected area -- are already on the ground in Crooked Creek, providing people to help with emergency operations, infrastructure needs, and personnel who can assess whether contamination exists from fuel or other spills, Zidek said.

More than 50 people are continuing to take shelter at the Donlin Creek Gold Mine, about 10 miles away.

Contact Jill Burke at jill(at)alaskadispatch.com