The rain stopped Tuesday morning, but flooding conditions persisted in Seward as city, borough and state workers continued cleanup and repair efforts following three days of torrential rains that closed the Seward Highway on Monday.
No injuries or fatalities were reported as a result of the flooding.
After declaring a local disaster emergency on Monday, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor John Williams said Tuesday, “We’re past the dangerous stage now. Mop-up is now beginning.”
Williams said the borough has structured a recovery staff made up of members of the borough’s Office of Emergency Management and Public Works Department.
The Seward Highway, which was closed at Mile 4, was reopened Monday evening with a state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities pilot car leading vehicles through flooded sections of the road, according to DOT spokesperson Rick Feller.
“We also had parts of Nash Road and Salmon Creek Road closed,” said Feller. Nash Road reopened Tuesday morning and Salmon Creek Road was expected to open Tuesday, as well.
Seward City Clerk Jean Lewis said the city has incurred extensive property damage and “some people in the Old Mill Subdivision may still be stranded,” as of Tuesday.
Bear Creek Volunteer Fire Department crews were attempting to respond to the needs of property owners in Old Mill, but weight restrictions on the bridge hampered efforts to get equipment across.
“We’ve got all our available personnel working around the clock,” Lewis said.
Emergency shelters in Seward High School and at Bear Creek Recreational Vehicle Park, which each had two people Monday night, are now closed.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation was advising people to boil their drinking water, especially if they have had standing water near their well casing.
Drinking water should be boiled for at least five minutes.
Once flooding subsides, water wells should be chlorinated, according to DEC.
During the chlorination process preferably overnight chlorine should be left in pipes for four hours, making water undrinkable. People should have a 24-hour supply of clean drinking water on hand.
Lewis said the city animal shelter was being made available for any dogs or cats needing a place to stay, but she was not aware of anyone taking pets there as of Tuesday morning.
Williams said he is awaiting word from Gov. Frank Murkowski’s office as to whether Seward would be declared a state emergency area.
“The governor has an assessment team on the ground right now,” Williams said Tuesday afternoon.
The borough initially spent $50,000 from an emergency response pool and Williams said he would ask the borough assembly for an additional $250,000 Tuesday night for emergency response in Seward.
He said borough expenditures would be submitted to the state for reimbursement.
Williams also said the city has made a water taxi service available through Aqua Tech to Lowell Point residents who may need it.
The city bridge on Lowell Point Road was washed out, but Williams said the contractor’s work on a new borough bridge farther out is sound.
He said 97 properties are on the borough tax rolls in Lowell Point, but many are summer homes, and he did not have an exact figure as to how many people reside there year-round.
By Tuesday afternoon, the only remaining road closures were Lowell Point Road, the access road to the Old Mill Subdivision and Salmon Creek Road.
Feller said repaving of the Seward Highway from Mile 0 in the heart of Seward to Mile 8 was just recently completed.
“I don’t believe it was even striped yet,” Feller said. “I hope we didn’t lose too much.”
More rain is being forecasted for Seward this week.
Staying safe when water rises
The city of Seward has compiled the following list of flood safety tips:
· Do not walk through flowing water. Six inches of flowing water can knock people off their feet. When walking in standing water, use a pole or stick to ensure the ground is still there. Drowning is the number one cause of flood deaths.
· Do not drive through a flooded area. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else. Do not drive around barriers; the road or a bridge may be washed out.
· Stay away from power lines and electrical wires. The number two flood killer is electrocution. Electric current can travel through water.
· Shut off gas and electricity and move valuable contents upstairs.
· Look out for animals. Small animals that have been flooded out of their homes may seek shelter in people’s homes. Use a pole or stick to turn things over and scare away small animals.
· Look before stepping. After a flood, the ground and floors may be covered with debris, including broken glass and nails. Floors and stairs that have been covered with mud can be very slippery.
· Be alert for gas leaks. Use a flashlight to inspect for damage. Do not use candles, lanterns or open flames, and don’t smoke unless all gas has been turned off and the area has been ventilated.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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