The weather may be cold, but it’s too soon to get out on the river ice. The ice is forming up better than it did two years ago, when the winter was the warmest on record, but it is not freezing as fast or as well as last winter, when conditions were near-perfect.
Above average snowfall at the headwaters of the Kuskokwim, and early break up, led to higher than average river flows past Aniak. The river banks are eroding, threatening community infrastructure.
The tragedy came after several days of dire warnings about the dangers of river travel due to an unusually early warm-up. Search and rescuers crawled onto weak ice, open water all around, to help retrieve the survivors.
Two four-wheelers carrying five men leaving Bethel broke through needle ice on the upper end of Church Slough on Sunday night. Two of the men died, while three others were treated for hypothermia in Bethel.
Drivers need to stick to marked trails on the Lower Kuskokwim River, according to the latest update from Bethel Search and Rescue’s Earl Samuelson. There is a spot in front of Oscarville that has only 9 inches of ice, which Samuelson says is too thin to drive a truck on.
Starting Thursday, the Department of Transportation will begin repairing Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway. The warm winter has wreaked similar havoc on highways across Alaska.
How will climate change affect health in Alaska? Dangerous travel conditions could cause more accidents, warmer temperatures could spread new diseases and the topsy-turvy weather could worsen mental health. Those are some conclusions from a new state report released Monday. Listen now