Melting permafrost and severe erosion have plagued the community for decades. The most recent storm brought waves so fierce, the water claimed roughly half of the 80 or so remaining feet of land that stands between the back end of the school and the edge of the Ningliq river.
The spill followed a sudden rise in warm temperatures in recent days. Hooper Bay Mayor Sandra Hill said that the thaw and rain had melted the previously frozen land surrounding the sewage lagoon, causing a wall of the lagoon to cave.
“It got very cold the day we got there, it got down to like single digits and ice came out of the mountains and rivers and sloughs everywhere,” said Allyn Long, general manager of Alaska Logistics.
The ride downriver had been good. But by evening on the way back, it started to get bumpy.“There was lots of dark spots, lots of water,” said Nikiefer. Then suddenly, the ice turned needley. The snowmachine stopped, and then started to sink. They jumped off and started to swim.
The river is so rough in the Upper Kuskokwim area that it is impassable to vehicle and snow machine traffic. Big boulders of snow-covered ice are scattered across the river caused by high water and a late freeze up.
The weather may be cold, but it’s too soon to get out on the river ice. The ice is forming up better than it did two years ago, when the winter was the warmest on record, but it is not freezing as fast or as well as last winter, when conditions were near-perfect.