Large ice jam damages buildings in Kotzebue

An ice jam in Kotzebue, Alaska pushed ice into the town causing thousands of dollars of...
An ice jam in Kotzebue, Alaska pushed ice into the town causing thousands of dollars of damage. (Courtesy: Drew Nanouk) (KTVF)
Published: May. 28, 2020 at 4:58 PM AKDT
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A large ice jam has damaged buildings and property in the western Alaska city of Kotzebue. Photos and video from the area show large blocks of ice pushing into buildings, vehicles, and other property.

Heavy equipment was used to try stopping the destruction, but it did little against the heavy ice chunks. Lew Pagel, the Mayor of Kotzebue, said the ice caused thousands of dollars of damage.

The ice jam, also called an ice shove, was caused by sea ice and lake ice melting.

Andy Mahoney, a research associate professor of geophysics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has been studying Alaska sea ice for over 20 years. Mahoney says that the lake ice in Kobuk Lake has broken up and is flowing down a channel in front of the town. He said this happens annually, but this year the ice got stuck and pushed onto shore.

"We don't fully understand these events. They are dynamic, they are driven by a combination of warming temperatures, runoff from rivers in-land, as well as what the local tide is doing in response to the sun, the moon and the wind. So there's a lot of factors that go on that affect exactly how the ice behaves as it drifts down the channel," Mohoney said.

Mahoney said this is not a common event, as the buildings had been there a long time and had never been damaged. He also said it is difficult to point out exactly what caused the ice to jam.

Mayor Pagel said they are looking to extend the sea wall to protect that part of the town from ice damage.

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