City recommends evacuations as Juneau sees record flooding from glacial outburst flood

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At least one home along Riverside Drive collapsed after severe glacial outburst flooding in Mendenhall River eroded the bank (Photo courtesy of Katy Lundquist)

Juneau’s emergency operations center has recommended that people who live on Marion Drive evacuate Saturday night amid an unprecedented glacial outburst flood. 

A news release from the city said that one building had been lost and others are in danger — and that rapid erosion along Marion Drive could cause the riverbank to collapse. 

Drone footage shared on social media showed one building that had collapsed into the river and others that appeared to have been undercut by the eroding bank.

The source of this weekend’s flooding is a glacial dam outburst flood from Suicide Basin, above the Mendenhall Glacier. An update from the National Weather Service described record flooding of waterways and low-lying areas, along with flooding “in areas that have not previously seen flooding before.”

At the current rate, peak flooding could crest at 15 feet.

“There is no comparison,” said meteorologist Nicole Ferrin, with the National Weather Service in Juneau. “We’re two feet over our last record.”

That record was set in 2011, the first year that glacial outburst flooding occurred in Juneau. 

Glacial outburst flooding inundating areas around the Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center at 7:50 p.m. on Aug. 5, 2023. (Anna Canny/KTOO)

Ferrin said determining the exact timing of the flood’s peak is difficult, but the rate of rise has decreased as of late Saturday evening.

“We’re hoping that indicates that we’re nearing the end,” she said. 

According to the city’s news release, the road bridge at Back Loop and the footbridge at Dimond Park are closed. The city is also asking people to stay away from the river and to avoid unnecessary travel on the Back Loop’s Mendenhall River bridge.

The city says that people affected by the flooding who need guidance should call 907-586-0600.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Read More: City recommends evacuations as Juneau sees record flooding from glacial outburst flood

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