Snowmelt causes flooding

Posted: Wednesday, April 11, 2007


  Standing water fills a yard at the end of Estate Court off Echo Lake Road on Tuesday afternoon. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Standing water fills a yard at the end of Estate Court off Echo Lake Road on Tuesday afternoon.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Runoff from melting snow and ice is meeting still-frozen culverts and inadequate ditches and causing localized flooding in parts of the Kenai Peninsula this week as breakup proceeds in earnest.

“Before, it just made puddles. Now we need a boat to get to the neighbor’s house,” said Robert Florence, who lives with his wife Sheree at the end of a cul-de-sac in the Echo Lake area.

Flooding occurs on his road, Estate Court, every year, Florence said Monday, but never as badly as this spring. High water has covered an area about equal to half a football field, including the cul-de-sac and their lawn and driveway. In the middle, water is two to three feet deep, Florence said.

“We raised our driveway two or three years ago. The neighbor raised hers too,” he said. “I’ve got a Ford 150 and it’s up to the bottom of the doors.”

Sheree Florence said Tuesday the flooding had gotten worse. She has been using a pump and some 600 feet of hose to try to eliminate at least some of the water from the end of the cul-de-sac, but can only leave the pump on when she is home. She also said that a youngster in the neighborhood living with a disability must be picked up by a school bus that could get stuck by the high water. She said she had notified the borough and is looking for some help.

The Florence’s story is not unusual for borough subdivisions prone to localized snowmelt flooding in April. Angie Richardson, administrative assistant with the Kenai Peninsula Borough Roads Service Area, said certain areas of the central peninsula are subject to severe flooding at this time of year, typically followed a week or so later by flooding in the North Kenai area and in the Kasilof and Ninilchik areas. Down in the Homer area, several borough roads are seeing flooding because of frozen culverts, she said.

This week, flooding has occurred around Iron Avenue on the west side of Soldotna, on Otter Trail in Sterling, and in the Poppy Wood Subdivision of K-Beach Road.

“The culverts get frozen,” Richardson said. “The majority of flat areas don’t have proper ditching.”

Many problem roads are substandard, Richardson said, but have been grandfathered into the maintenance system and are consuming maintenance funds. Severe problems, determined on a priority basis, get help from the borough, which hires contractors to steam thaw culverts and pump water from streets. But what the borough can do is limited, she said.

“To be honest with you, we don’t have all the resources and funding to get all the flooding off the streets,” Richardson said, adding that when homes are reported to be in danger, the borough sends an inspector, and if necessary, emergency help to pump away flood waters.

How long the annual condition lingers depends on the area. Snow melting should continue to be a problem in the central area for a couple more weeks, a little longer in the northern region where flooding has yet to begin, she said.

Richardson recommends calling the roads department (262-4427) if your area is experiencing major problems due to flooding.

She also said Tuesday the RSA would be sending an inspector to the Florence’s cul-de-sac to assess the flooding situation.

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