Ice jam breaks apart

Flooding still a concern for Big Eddy area

Posted: Thursday, February 01, 2007

Water levels that had measured at a peak depth of 20 feet Sunday continued to recede at the Soldotna bridge Wednesday, according to the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Office of Emergency Management.

The water depth stood at 7.64 feet Wednesday morning, down from 7.87 feet on Tuesday, and well below the flood stage of 12 feet.

Water volumes also continued to decline at Skilak Lake, as on Wednesday discharge meter readings showed the lake putting out slightly more than 5,700 cubic feet per second into the Kenai River — still nearly twice the normal levels for this time of year according to OEM.

Despite the slow, but steady declines, the Kenai River remains in flood warning status from the Soldotna Bridge to the mouth of the river until 5 p.m. today.

According to an OEM update issued Wednesday afternoon, the large ice jam at Mile 18 on the Kenai River has broken up into three smaller jams, causing water levels to drop significantly upriver from them.

These smaller ice jams still contain a significant amount of debris including lumber, trees, sections of docks and boardwalks, as well as metal decking and stairs.

There is still a risk that these individual ice jams move downriver, or they may reform back into one large jam. When these new ice jams release, it could cause large flows of water and ice to move downstream into the Big Eddy area.

According to the OEM update, ice jams and warmer temperatures are weakening the existing ice pack between Mile 17.5 and Mile 14, and any significant release of ice and debris is likely to heavily affect low-lying property within this area, with Big Eddy to Stewarts Landing neighborhoods likely to experience the heaviest effects.

Emergency officials said River Quest is the area most likely to experience heavy ice and debris buildup, which may cause significant damage to property and structures along the riverbank.

Water could also back up quickly around Big Eddy, causing significant and rapid flooding from Knight Drive, across the Big Eddy area at Harbor Road, and through Tukak Harbor, according to the OEM. Property owners in these areas should be prepared to evacuate in the event of rising water levels.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is still advising residents using wells to boil water used for drinking, cooking, cleaning and personal hygiene. This practice should continue until homeowners can sanitize and test their well water. Residents also are asked to monitor their sewer system, as floodwaters may have caused damage. For further information, call the Soldotna DEC office at 262-5210.

The OEM has requested that all property owners who have suffered damage or property losses due to the ice and flooding document those losses with photographs and damage estimates, and make reports to their insurance companies. They’re also asked to fill out damage reports for the OEM, which can be found at www.borough. Periodic updates regarding the flooding can be found at the same Web site.

For more information, the OEM has established an automated information line, at 262-4910, that will provide current information regarding Kenai River flooding. Updated information can also be obtained from the OEM Web site.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia

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