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Heavy rain causes flooding across Kenai Peninsula

Flood watch for Kenai River

Posted: September 20, 2012 - 8:39am  |  Updated: September 20, 2012 - 10:40am
Bob Myles stands on the step bar of his truck to get his mail and to avoid a block-long, street-wide puddle in the middle of Pine Street in Kenai. Heavy rain fell across the Peninsula again Wednesday, causing flooding in some areas.  M. Scott Moon
M. Scott Moon
Bob Myles stands on the step bar of his truck to get his mail and to avoid a block-long, street-wide puddle in the middle of Pine Street in Kenai. Heavy rain fell across the Peninsula again Wednesday, causing flooding in some areas.

The National Weather Service issued Wednesday a flood watch for the Kenai River. The watch warns of rapid river rises along waterways draining into Cook Inlet between Soldotna and Homer, as well as Cooper Landing.

Additional flood watch waterways include the Anchor and Ninilchik Rivers and Stariski Creek and Deep Creek. 

The flood watch is in effect through Saturday morning.

The communities of Seward, Whittier, Girdwood and Moose Pass had their flood watch updated to a flood warning at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Seward city officials have since closed roads and set up an emergency operations center.

Heavy rains earlier this week caused Kenai Lake, located in the Kenai Mountains, to rise more than two feet. Wednesday’s heavy rains will cause the Kenai River at Cooper Landing to rise another two feet during the next three days and potentially reach flood levels Friday afternoon, the weather service says.

Below Skilak Lake, the Kenai River’s levels will rise during the remainder of the week, reaching minor flood levels this weekend. Minor flooding of low-lying areas around Kenai Lake and portions of the Kenai River are possible, the weather service says.

Residents are advised to report any minor flooding to local law enforcement agencies.

Rains are expected to continue through the weekend, with a short break Friday, said Dave Stricklan, a weather service hydro-meteorological technician. 

“It’s going to be wet for awhile,” he said. “(The rains) may not be as heavy as they are now, but the moisture will continue.”

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management’s website includes information about flood preparation. If told to evacuate, do so as soon as possible, the American Red Cross advises.

Emergency management is asking residents at low-lying areas to store all outdoor belongings inside, if possible. Larger items should be tied down, they said. 

As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, Resurrection River at Exit Glacier Bridge near Seward was experiencing moderate flooding, and Grouse Lake was approaching minor flood levels. 

Seward set up an emergency operations center at their city council chambers to address local flood problems. The city’s manager issued a state of emergency at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday. 

Residents living at the Old Mill Subdivision west of the Lost Creek were advised to contact the operations center if they needed assistance evacuating, but the evacuation was not mandatory. 

Road closures included Exit Glacier, Phoenix, Chiswell and Port, as well as portions of Dieckgraeff Road, according to Seward’s online alert center. Lowell Point Road was closed due to intermittent landslides. Other areas of concern near Seward include the Salmon and Old Mill creeks, and Mile 4.5 to 5 of the Seward Highway. 

“We have a lot of road closures and crews dispatched according to priority, but so far we’re holding out,” said Johanna Kinney, Seward’s city clerk.

The weather is starting to subside, she said. 

“High tide was before 4 p.m. today, which was the surge we were expecting,” she said. “When that subsides — if weather permits — we’ll be fine.”

An emergency shelter at Seward High School has been established. Moose Pass School also has been open as a shelter. 

The emergency center will remain open. It debriefs every half hour, Kinney said. 

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at jerzy.shedlock@peninsulaclarion.com. 

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