Gov. Sean Parnell on Friday declared the wind-whipped and rain-drenched Kenai Peninsula Borough a state disaster.
“While the full extent of the damage remains unknown, it is apparent that the high winds and severe flooding will leave communities in need of state assistance to recover,” said Parnell in a press release. “The emergency responders and managers in the local jurisdictions have done a tremendous job addressing the needs of Alaskans.”
The governor made the same declaration for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough after surveying flooding in the area by helicopter and landing to meet with evacuated Talkeetna residents.
According to the press release, the state will increase support to provide relief in the form of emergency management personnel and equipment as needed by communities.
Also on Friday, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre declared a state of emergency for the Peninsula due to flooding events affecting the area, specifically in Seward and the Bear Creek Flood Service area.
Damage is being assessed as storm water, sediment and debris rip apart and damage roads, bridges and public facilities.
Kalifornsky Beach Road at Mile 11, two miles south of The Albatross bar and next to the entrance of Marathon’s Kenai gas field facility, has washed out and is closed until further notice.
“We were facing some pretty serious erosion there starting early yesterday and battled it through the day and then into the evening and eventually lost the battle last night at milepost 11,” said Rick Feller, central region spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Transportation.
DOT crews are still assessing the extent of damage to the road, Feller said.
“Given the fact that it is a profound washout and water is still flowing and it is kind of an unstable situation right there, we really don’t want to send crews in to do any work until we have had proper assessments and the area is stabilized,” Feller said.
Feller added the road closure will remain until further notice with no timeframe yet determined for repairs.
“It really depends on what happens to us weather-wise and what other priorities we have to deal with as well,” he said. “We are certainly aware of the inconvenience and we will certainly be on it from a repair standpoint as soon as we can, but at this time we do have to let things settle down.”
The National Weather Service maintained a flood warning through 4 p.m. Saturday for Western Prince William Sound including Kenai Lake and Seward.
At 4 a.m. Saturday, the river gauge for the Resurrection River at Exit Glacier Bridge measured 17.6 feet, which is above its flood stage of 17.5 feet, the weather service reported.
Due to heavy rains, Kenai Lake was within one foot of its flood stage level of 10 feet, the weather service also reported.
“I have talked to some residents in that area who have told me it is definitely full,” said Brenda Ahlberg, Kenai Peninsula Borough information officer. “... They feel like they are OK, that there isn’t anything that they are really concerned about yet.”
Forecasters are calling for more rain today with highs in the 50s and winds variable at 10 miles per hour. Monday is expected to be partly sunny with highs in the lower to mid 50s with light winds.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management is continuing to monitor significant erosion along high banks, including trees and debris depositing into the Kenai River.
“As far as homes being in jeopardy, nothing at this time, but it is definitely being monitored,” Ahlberg said. “Now considering where the ground saturation continues to be what it is and with the continuing rain, right now we are just at a monitor standpoint with folks. Basically just lots of big trees coming down the Kenai.”
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation issued an advisory for Kenai Peninsula property owners near flooding streams and rivers.
“Flooded wells may be contaminated with bacteria or other microorganisms that can cause illness,” DEC officials reported. “People with onsite wells on flooded property should boil water used for drinking, cooking, hand washing, or dish washing for at least two minutes prior to use. After the flooding has subsided, the well and water system should be disinfected with chlorine and thoroughly flushed, and then tested by a certified laboratory to ensure the water is safe to drink.”
DEC said flooded on-site sewer systems may be damaged and not working property. If sewage has leaked onto the ground, DEC recommends disinfecting the area with lime. A light powdering of finely ground garden lime will work, or a 5 percent solution of water and chlorine bleach. Sewage can contain active and harmful bacteria, cysts and viruses.
For more information regarding sewer system monitoring, disinfection procedures, certified testing laboratories, or safe drinking water practices, call the DEC Drinking Water Program office at 262-3420 or visit www.flood.alaska.gov/.
Clarion reporter Dan Schwartz contributed to this report
Brian Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.