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Glacial flooding damages structures in Alaska's capital

The Mendenhall River in Juneau reached record levels over the weekend after a glacial-dammed lake outburst in Suicide Basin.
Glacial flooding damages structures in Alaska's capital
Posted at 9:26 AM, Aug 07, 2023

Juneau, Alaska, officials declared an emergency on Sunday as the Mendenhall River reached record levels due to a glacial-dammed lake outburst. 

The river crested at just under 15 feet late Saturday and early Sunday. Before cresting, two buildings were destroyed by the flooding. 

Although the water has receded, some roadways remain obstructed by silt and debris. The National Weather Service said tree-fall and debris remain in the river. 

"Waters continue to recede," the National Weather Service said late Sunday. "Although flooding is no longer expected to pose a threat, hazards persist in and near the Mendenhall River. Please continue to heed remaining road closures, stay out of the river and away from unstable banks and give plenty of space for resources to respond and provide assistance."

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The Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center has warned that glacial damming events in Suicide Basin can cause more frequent flooding in the Mendenhall River. The glacier has caused summer flooding nearly every year since 2011.

"Each year, the outburst flood from Suicide Basin inundates nearby campgrounds, trails, homes, and roads. In one spectacular case, the flood waters cut through a large meander in Mendenhall River, which caused lasting effects on the river’s course and nearby infrastructure," the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center wrote. 

The flooding came as the area experienced near-record warmth and rainfall over the weekend.

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