Buildings destroyed in flooding in Alaska’s capital from glacial lake water release

The swollen Mendenhall River courses along a neighborhood in Juneau, Alaska
The swollen Mendenhall River courses along a neighborhood in Juneau, Alaska, on Sunday after a glacial dam burst earlier in the weekend, causing flooding along the river and Mendenhall Lake.
(Becky Bohrer / Associated Press)
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At least two buildings have been destroyed and residents of others have been evacuated from Juneau after flooding caused by a release of water from a glacier-dammed lake near Alaska’s capital city, officials said.

The Mendenhall River flooded on Saturday because of a major release from Suicide Basin above Alaska’s capital city, a news release from the City and Borough of Juneau said Sunday.

Video posted on social media showed towering trees behind a home falling into the rushing river as the water ate away at the bank. Eventually, the home itself, after teetering at the edge, collapsed into the river.


The Alaska Native village of Shishmaref is on a sinking barrier island in the Chukchi Sea, where it is constantly threatened by the effects of climate change.

Oct. 28, 2022

River levels began falling Sunday but the city said the riverbanks remained highly unstable. Some roadways were blocked by silt and debris from the flooding, it said.

Such glacial outburst floods happen when glaciers melt and pour massive amounts of water into nearby lakes. A study released earlier this year found such floods pose a risk to 15 million people around the globe, more than half of them in India, Pakistan, Peru and China.

Suicide Basin has released water that has caused flooding along the Mendenhall Lake and Mendenhall River since 2011, according to the National Weather Service. However, the maximum water level in the lake on Saturday night exceeded the previous record flood stage set in July 2016, the weather service reported.