More roads open

Weather service continues flood watch near Homer

Posted: Tuesday, October 29, 2002

The Sterling Highway was reopened to all traffic Monday allowing motorists to travel the entire distance to and from Homer.

The road had been closed since the rain swollen Deep Creek eroded its banks and washed away the south abutment approach to the Deep Creek bridge at Ninilchik. The bridge itself was not washed away.

Work crews began hauling armor rock from Homer and Seward Saturday morning, working through Monday morning to get the arterial highway reopened, according to Murph O'Brien, spokesperson for the Alaska De-partment of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Heavy rains that began late last Tuesday inundated much of the Kenai Peninsula and washed out numerous roads and bridges, particularly in the southern end of the peninsula between Ninilchik and Homer.

O'Brien said road repair crews needed water levels in Deep Creek to subside before they could begin construction.

"By Friday, the water had gone down about 11 or 12 feet," he said. "By Friday evening we were able to begin hauling material."

He said nearly 3,000 tons of armor rock were being brought in for the repair projects going on at Deep Creek and the Ninilchik River, where the Mission bridge also was flooded out.

The highway was reopened as a one-lane gravel road with flaggers directing traffic in both directions. Motorists were advised to expect delays, but the road was open to all traffic, including trucks, and no weight restrictions were imposed.

"We hope to get the road paved before the (winter) weather," O'Brien said. The state may be able to seal the road surface with a temporary cold-patch pavement, although O'Brien said a permanent hot-paving job is preferred.

Kenai Peninsula Borough contract workers hurried to reopen Oilwell Road where two sections were washed out by flood waters.

"We now have the first washout repaired at Silver Salmon Creek," said Crista Cady-Hippchen, borough public information officer.

"It's advisable that people use four-wheel drive there," she said.

"The second washout, at Dolly Varden Creek, is now open to ATVs," Cady-Hippchen said Monday afternoon. The entire length of Oilwell Road is expected to be open to four-wheel-drive vehicles by Thursday.

Work began on those roads after the borough located several four-foot diameter culverts to replace culverts that were damaged in the floods.

Other priority projects for the borough include the Running Water Bridge crossing Crooked Creek. The bridge remains closed and crews will begin work there today with an anticipated Wednesday opening.

Brody bridge across the Ninilchik River also remains closed and may need to be replaced. Alternate access is available via the Clark Garrison bridge, according to Cady-Hippchen. Progress has been made on the Ninilchik River Mission bridge, which may reopen Thursday.

The DOT has reported that Stariski Creek is open to traffic, Old Sterling Highway is open and East End Road is open with crews continuing cleanup there.

A minor washout was reported at Ohlson Mountain Road, but the road is still drivable. Fritz Creek is open and the North Fork Road has been reopened. The road to Nikolaevsk remains closed, but the town is accessible via a temporary foot bridge.

The borough, which reopened its Emergency Operations Center in the Borough Building in Soldotna on Monday, said moderate to heavy rains are predicted for areas of the peninsula through the middle of the week.

The National Weather Service continued its flood watch for small rivers and streams in the Homer area, including the Anchor River, the Ninilchik River and Deep Creek.

Rain, heavy at times, was forecast for the peninsula today and tonight with a chance of rain Wednesday and Thursday. Friday and Saturday are predicted to be partly cloudy with rain and snow likely Sunday.

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