Residents of low-lying areas along the lower Kenai River were spared flood worries Monday morning, until an ice jam formed above the outlet of Slikok Creek in the afternoon.
The jam that had been hung up at the Sterling Highway bridge in Soldotna on Sunday broke loose and moved downstream about 2 a.m. Monday, allowing the water level at the bridge to decrease from 20 feet Saturday to 11.20 feet Monday afternoon, which is just under flood stage.
Ice was jammed at Centennial Campground on Monday morning, but open channels remained in the ice, allowing water to flow through and not back up behind the jam.
Around 12:30 p.m. Monday the jam at Centennial broke loose and made it about a mile downstream before reforming just above the outlet of Slikok Creek, halfway between the Sterling Highway bridge and the Big Eddy area. The jam at Slikok was about a mile long Sunday evening, causing water to back up behind it and spill over the river’s banks. As the water level continued to rise, so did the flood threat to the Big Eddy, Poacher’s Cove and River Quest areas.
As with all the ice jams forming since last week, the Slikok jumble could break loose at any time, which could release a surge of water that would reflood low-lying areas downstream that already have been plagued by periodic flooding since Thursday.
A lake behind Skilak Glacier began to drain Jan. 16. The estimated 4 feet of excess water flushing through the lower Kenai River caused the winter icepack to shift and move downriver. On Thursday night ice jams began contributing to flooding in low-lying areas on the lower river.
The National Weather Service reports that the Skilak Glacier Dammed Lake has emptied, and water levels in the lower Kenai River will recede this week. But flood danger remains as long as the ice jams do.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation cautions flood victims who rely on well water to boil their water before using it for drinking, cooking, cleaning or personal hygiene until flooding has ceased and their well water is tested.
Sewer systems also may be damaged by flooding, and DEC advises homeowners to avoid using their sewer systems until flood and groundwater levels subside to prevent sewage from backing up into homes.
For more information, contact the DEC at 262-5210; the borough Office of Emergency Management at 262-4910 or online at www.borough.kenai.ak.usemergency; or the National Weather Service at www.arh.noaa.gov.
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