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Ice jams cause minor flooding in Kenai River

Posted: Sunday, November 19, 2006

Several days of frigid temperatures and a quick freeze-up along parts of the Kenai River have caused ice jams in the Big Eddy area, and rising water levels Friday led the National Weather Service to issue a flood warning on the lower river.

That followed a small stream advisory flood advisory Thursday for that portion of the river after minor flooding was reported.

Scott Walden, of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management, said the ice jam is near Porter’s Slough about a quarter mile down river from Big Eddy.

The freezing conditions and ice jamming are not that unusual, except that it is occurring about three weeks earlier than average and coinciding with some particularly high tides, Walden said.

“Water is backing up and getting into the sloughs near Big Eddy,” he said.

As the tides receded, the water leaves behind plates of ice, sometimes around homes. Walden said there had been no significant damage to any homes other than some frozen pipes.

Eddy and Riverside Lanes are closed at this time because of water three or four inches deep.

“We have projections for similar weather conditions and high tides for the next seven days,” Walden said.

The current cold snap is expected to continue through next week, and the flood warning will remain in effect until at least Thanksgiving Day, the weather service said.

According to the service, water levels on the Kenai River near Big Eddy rose quickly from around noon Wednesday to noon Thursday because of ice jams. The river’s main channel downstream from Tukak Harbor was full of ice pans and the river was only open through a narrow channel near one bank at river Mile 15.

Water and ice were reportedly over the bank in that area and nearby roads were closed. Several homes also were reported to have water and ice building up around them, the weather service noted.

River levels were expected to stabilize near “bank-full levels” in the Big Eddy area, the weather service warning said, but as the freeze-up continues, flooding conditions may move upstream.

“Similar issues will occur with over-bank flow and ice jams likely to occur upstream towards the Soldotna Bridge over the next several weeks,” the weather service said.

Those owning docks, landings or staircases leading to the riverbanks were being urged to take precautions to protect their property from damage.

The flood warning extends to urban areas and along small streams on the western Kenai Peninsula, including Soldotna, Ridgeway and Big Eddy.

According to the weather service, a flood warning means flooding is imminent or has been reported. However, stream levels should rise slowly and flash flooding is not expected.

Hal Spence can be reached at harold.spence@peninsulaclarion.com.



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