With late snow followed by warm temperatures, officials are monitoring Chena River levels

Chena River, August 2017
Chena River, August 2017(KTVF)
Published: Apr. 17, 2020 at 4:55 PM AKDT
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This spring has been unusual for several reasons, including the precipitation and climate here in the Interior.

With late snow fall followed by warm temperatures, experts believe the snow could melt at a rapid rate, causing potential flooding for both residential and commercial areas.

Monitoring equipment at the basin of the Chena River, located in the heart of downtown Fairbanks, indicate high water levels, according to Julie Anderson, chief of operations of the U-S Army Corps of Engineers in Alaska.

She says it's something they are keeping an eye on. "We are certainly monitoring the situation. If we flood, [it] depends on whether it freezes or not at night up in the basin, because that slows the melt. If that doesn't freeze, then that will essentially let the melt go on 24 hours a day. This is really a watching situation at this point and time and we definitely are with these elevated levels of precipitation."

Although observing, officials have not had to take action yet on slowing the flow of water into the Chena River.

"We don't have ice out on the Chena River yet. The [National] Weather Service is expecting that to happen next week, so we are just kind of on the beginning of that flood event."

If steps to control the flow are necessary, Anderson outlined what they can do to combat a potential flood.

"We have a congressional authorization to limit the flow in downtown Fairbanks to 12,000 cubic feet per second of water. What that means, is out here at the dam, when our gauges show we are about 8,000 cubic feet per second, that is when we put our gates in the water to reduce or choke down the flow in the Chena River, and it diverts the water to our seven mile long spillway over to the Tanana River."

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