Rain soaks eastern Interior

Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Gardens in the villages of Northway and Tetlin won't need to be watered for a while.

A downpour Monday soaked the villages off the Alaska Highway near the Canada border with about 4 inches of rain over a 24-hour period from Sunday to Monday.

''I think we got our ground wet enough,'' said Joanne James at Northway Fuel on Tuesday. ''I've got mud puddles out here that could almost drown my Dodge pickup.''

Tetlin received 4.15 inches of rain while the 3.45 inches of rain that fell in Northway was the second largest daily rainfall ever recorded in the village, said meteorologist Don Aycock at the National Weather Service. It ranks behind only Aug. 1, 1944, when 3.75 inches fell in 24 hours.

With intermittent rain not expected to let up until at least Wednesday, the National Weather Service extended the flash flood warning it issued Monday for small streams from Delta Junction east to the Canada border through Thursday night.

The heavy rains Monday produced minor flooding on both the Alaska and Taylor highways but neither road was closed and traffic was able to get through with only short delays.

''It's not as scary as it could be, but it could rain some more,'' said Jim Little, director of maintenance and operations for the northern region of the state Department of Transportation.

A pilot car was used Tuesday to lead traffic through a section of flooded road at Mile 1270 of the Alaska Highway between Tok and Northway, according to Little.

''It was deep enough so we needed to slow people down,'' Little said.

At one point, the road had nearly a foot of water flowing over it after a creek washed over the road because a culvert could not cope with the volume of water. By 3 p.m., however, water was no longer crossing the highway.

There was also water crossing the Taylor Highway between Tok and Eagle at Mile 81 at Jack Wade Creek on Monday, but the water level subsided by Tuesday afternoon.

DOT workers were continuing to remove rock and debris under the bridge at Onemile Creek at Mile 228 of the Richardson Highway to make room for water to pass under rather than over the road, Little said. A washout in July last year closed the highway at Onemile Creek for a day before crews could repair it.

Flash flood warnings and road washouts are an annual dilemma in the northeastern Alaska Range and Upper Tanana Valley in July, when warm summer rainstorms wash out the remainder of snowpack and turn what are normally mostly dry creek beds into ravaging rivers full of rocks, trees and gravel.

Aycock, at the National Weather Service, said rain abated in the upper Tanana Valley and over the Fortymile country on Tuesday, but steady showers were still expected on the north slopes of the Alaska Range.

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