High water sweeps away another Interior cabin

Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) Flooding from heavy rain claimed another Interior Alaska cabin Tuesday, this time off Chena Hot Springs Road east of Fairbanks.

Kathy and Roger Blanchard had just purchased new cabinets and drawers for their summer home near Mile 50 when floodwaters took over the remodeling effort. High water picked up the 12-foot by 16-foot cabin and carried it 600 feet to a sandbar.

The Blanchards, retirees from California who live on their parcel near Chena Hot Springs Resort six months a year and travel the Lower 48 in their motor home the other six months, were entertaining friends from California when the river started to rise. Roger Blanchard estimated the rate at six inches an hour.

The Blanchards spent Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday salvaging belongings.

''Neither one of us have cried yet. There's just too much to do,'' Kathy Blanchard said. They plan to take materials from the cabin back to a higher spot on their property and rebuild. Until then, they will live in their motor home.

Three to five inches of rain in the Interior led to flooding Monday at Carlo Creek 12 miles south of the Denali National Park entrance. The high water damaged or destroyed a dozen cabins and a home.

The Chena River, which flows through downtown Fairbanks, was filled in most areas and overflowing in others before peaking Wednesday night. Water levels on Fairbanks area rivers were expected to start falling Thursday.

July's rainfall set a record for the month, said Ted Fathauer, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service. Fairbanks had received 5.8 inches of rainfall as of Wednesday afternoon.

''It's an extraordinary event,'' Fathauer said. ''If you look at the distribution of rainfall, this is a once-in-a-generation event.''

Fairbanks did not suffer significant flooding. Tim Biggane, Fairbanks North Star Borough emergency services director, credits the Chena River flood-control project with saving the city from significant water damage. Workers at the Moose Creek Dam east of North Pole lowered gates on the dam early Tuesday morning to divert water that could have flooded Fairbanks.

''The dam project has done its job once again,'' Biggane said.

Ed Plumb, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Fairbanks, said recent rainfall could produce another surge on the Chena but that it would not be nearly as extreme as the rise that produced flooding.

All Interior roads that were closed by flooding have been reopened. That includes Chena Hot Springs Road, where six inches of water continued to cover pavement at Mile 37.5. That's down from a peak of two feet.

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