No one was surprised to hear the National Weather Service issuing flood watches and warnings throughout Alaska’s Interior this past weekend. With a Top Ten Snowfall this past winter, we have been readying for the coming melt.
Manley Hot Springs is one of the first communities to come under water. An ice dam on the Tanana River has caused water to back up into Manley. As of Sunday morning, as many as 75 residents in the lower areas of the town had been displaced, many of which were seeking shelter in the Manley Hot Springs Lodge.
Reports have ice starting to move on the Tanana, which would alleviate the flooding.
A Flood Watch had been issued for Eagle on the Yukon River, as well as Hughes on the Koyukuk. Ice now appears to be moving on both rivers and those two watches have been cancelled as of Sunday afternoon.
Temperatures for the coming week are going to dip down into the low to mid 40’s F for highs, with a (relatively) rare chance of May snow for Fairbanks. Even though we are all ready for summer and its warmer temps, a slow melt would be a good thing.
The fire started in a dentist’s office at 3pm on May 22, 1906. The source of the blaze has always been disputed: one theory was a candle started the fire, and another has a breeze blowing through an open window, sending a curtain over the flame of a bunsen burner.
Fairbanks was only a couple of years old in 1906, but due to the discovery of gold nearby, it had become a thriving community. The buildings were all constructed out of local lumber, so by the time the horse drawn fire department wagons were on the scene, the blaze was well underway.
The Northern Commercial Company had installed some fire hydrants in Fairbanks, powered by steam from their plant. Many of those hydrants were positioned to protect NCC property, although they charged the city $600 per month for the hydrants. Firehoses were located in small structures next to the hydrants. In 1906, Fairbanks had six full time firefighters, who were paid $100 per month.
Citizens from the town turned out in droves to help the small fire fighting force. Many manned fire hoses, others tried to save merchandise from businesses and possessions from homes in the fire’s path. Residents hung wet, wool blankets over doors, walls and even the sternwheelers, in an attempt to keep the fire at bay. That effort probably saved the Fairbanks Banking Company.
With the size of the fire, and the sheer number of fire hoses, the NC Co plant struggled to keep water pressure up. The steam driven fire pump was kept at pressure by wood fired boilers. NCC store manager, Volney Richmond, came up with the unique idea to add slabs of bacon to the boilers. The idea worked, and water pressure was increased. By the time the fire was under control, over 2000 pounds of slab bacon was burned in the boilers.
By 7pm, the fire was mostly under control, which meant that much of the city was now a field of burning embers. Over 70 buildings were destroyed in the fire.
“With the exception of the Fairbanks Banking Company’s building and the warehouse in the rear nothing is left standing in the four great blocks which comprised the commercial heart of Fairbanks.” – Fairbanks Times
In 1906, merchandise was brought into Fairbanks mostly by boat. Ships traveled up the Inside Passage from Seattle and San Francisco, their loads then came up the Yukon, Tanana and Chena Rivers to Fairbanks by sternwheeler. The process of ordering supplies started right away, including over 1500 feet of firehose lost in the fire. The rebuilding of Fairbanks began immediately. Local lore has the owner of the Senate Saloon contracting a crew by 6:30pm that night, with work beginning on clearing the site of his lost business the next morning.
Photos from the University of Alaska Archives; Sources: University of Alaska – Fairbanks, Retired Fairbanks Fire Captain Jack Hillman
Dead chum salmon found on the Koyukuk River; Photo credit: ADF&G
Salmon carcasses have been found in large numbers from Norton Sound, all the way up the Yukon River drainage.
Reports of children being able to catch chums with their hands in the Yukon are also coming in. The salmon appear to be completely disorientated.
On one bank of the Koyukuk, over 100 dead chum salmon were counted.
Fish & Game officials, as well as residents along the rivers report that when cut open, the salmon still have eggs or sperm inside. That means that they have not spawned yet.
Dead pink salmon along the Shaktoolik River; Photo credit: Sophia Katchatag, Community coordinator for Shaktoolik
The best guess right now is that the high water temperatures have stressed the salmon out before they can reach their spawning grounds. The waters of Norton Sound, the Koyukuk River and the Shaktoolik River are all well above average. The water temperatures for the Yukon River have been at the highest level ever recorded this summer.