State assessing damages from ice jam flooding in Circle, Crooked Creek

State emergency management officials begin helping residents of Circle and Crooked Creek following historic ice jam flooding over the weekend.
Published: May. 15, 2023 at 10:17 PM AKDT|Updated: May. 16, 2023 at 3:03 PM AKDT
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EAGLE, Alaska (KTUU) - Ice jams caused flooding in Eagle, Circle and Crooked Creek over the weekend, but residents and officials are still assessing the extend of the damage.

Public Information Officer Jeremy Zidek with the state of Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management says that that process starts with the safety and wellbeing of the residents.

“What we’ve heard from the communities that all members of the community have been either safely move to higher ground or they are safe,” Zidek said.

The next step is to get emergency medical care for those who need it, followed by an assessment of the damage — and setting up new infrastructure to restore services in each village.

“In Circle, they don’t have power, water, or communications, and we’re working on establishing kind of short term remedies to the situations and then longer-term fixes so people can restore their normal flow of goods and services.

The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is also deploying resources to the affected areas.

“We have a number of generators that are heading to Circle, also some communication equipment that will be able to augment the system that they have there while they work to restore their normal communication. And then we’re also looking at ways to provide them with water,” Zidek said.

That area is one of particular concern due to the severity of the floods.

“In Circle there, the water looks to be at historic levels. In Crooked Creek, the water is about four or five feet higher than what we saw in 2011 when the community flooded, so some pretty significant flooding,” Zidek said.

The community of Crooked Creek suffered some damage, but is on the road to recovery.

“In Crooked Creek, they have been able to restore some partial power, got their generators running and there was generators at the school, which is on higher ground and those were running. Their fuel and their community store is down by the water and those things were in an area that was inundated with water,” Zidek said.

Some companies with crews based in the area are assisting residents affected by the floods, sharing resources with the community.

“We have had some partners like Donlin Gold, a nearby gold mine, that has been providing food and communication equipment to the people in Crooked Creek and we’re really thankful for the work that they’re doing, it really takes all kinds of resources to help out a community when they’ve been impacted by this type of flooding,” Zidek said.

As many more towns and villages downstream await the rapid flow of water and large ice chunks associated with the dynamic breakup this year, Zidek speaks confidently of their level of preparedness.

”We’ve done a lot of preparation this spring. These are communities that know what to do when the floods coming. And so when River Watch teams out in the field have reported back that communities are heeding that warning, and that they’ve been taking precautionary measures, and they continue to do so as it looks like floodwaters could trouble their community.”

Zidek adds that the Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center warned that this would be a year of above-average flood potential, but riverside residents — and state resources — are ready.

”The communities have really done a great job of preparing and we have our partners ready to act if there needs to be some type of action to support the communities,” Zidek said.