A hydrologist with the State's river watch team said there's roughly 13 miles of ice that stopped moving from just near Aniak to Birch Crossing. But the team said the Aniak slew is open to relieve some of the pressure if water rushes in.
The concern in communities down the Kuskokwim River stems from a flood Sunday night that devastated a village just 50 miles from Aniak. Days after the flood, residents returned to Crooked Creek to find their homes in ruins.
There's a saying in Crooked Creek that's passed down from generation to generation. Never turn your back on the Kuskokwim River, or she'll turn her back on you.
“It looks so calm and gentle,” said Evelyn Thomas, the Crooked Creek Traditional Council President. “Now, you would never believe it could be so angry and so deadly.”
Earlier this week, Mother Nature showed her power in Crooked Creek, forcing dozens to evacuate when flood waters engulfed this small community of about 140 residents.
“We couldn’t even get to the boats. The water was coming so quickly it was just run, run,” said Thomas.
Friday everyone returned to Crooked Creek. Some had took shelter at Donlin Creek Mine, others on high ground. The depth of damage is clear with personal belongings tossed around, homes ripped from their foundations, and inside those homes, a devastating mess that won't be easy to clean up.
“A lifetime of accumulation is gone in one night. There’s nothing left,” Thomas said.
Everywhere you look, enormous chunks of ice were evidence of a record flood.
“There's no question that there's significant impact to community, to individuals,” said Joe Masters, the Commissioner of Alaska’s Public Safety Department. “And we're going to be seeing more of what those impacts are as they come in the next few days.”
As some question how this community will be able to recover from a wrath of nature, those who call Crooked Creek "home" will take it day by day.
“We’re all alive. We're northern people. We've survived for 10,000 years or longer,” said Thomas. “We will survive again.”