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Ice jams still a possibility

Mother Nature continues to fool with the Kenai River

Posted: Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ice jams still a possibilityCold temperatures and a build-up of slushy ice have Kenai Peninsula Borough emergency officials keeping a close eye on portions of the Kenai River, especially around the Big Eddy area.

Ice-jams last year caused major flooding there and on other parts of the river.

Minor flooding was reported in the area, and the National Weather Service issued a small-stream flood advisory over the weekend, which continues through Wednesday, when it will be assessed. There is always a risk that ice jams could develop causing more significant flooding if temperatures remain cold.

However, as of Monday, the borough Office of Emergency Management was staying alert and asking residents of low-lying areas to do the same.

"We've been keeping an eye on the situation since Wednesday night (Dec. 19)," said OEM Coordinator Scott Walden. "It's not so much an ice jam, but a build-up of that slushy ice. Water will back up behind it and then release. So far, it's been taking care of itself pretty well."

Walden said folks should treat this winter like a typical winter; that is, get docks, walkways and any other movable property up away from the shoreline. The potential for damage from ice is always present.

At Big Eddy, some water had crossed low-lying roads, Walden said, but only to a depth of an inch or so, tending to come and go in cycles.

That's nothing like what occurred last February when ice jams put several feet of water over local roads at Big Eddy.

The National Weather Service, the Kenai River Center and other agencies are rating this an average winter, at least so far, Walden said, adding he hopes severe sub-zero temperatures don't contribute to the build up of solid ice jams again this year.

The National Weather Service has urged residents living along the river to continue to monitor the river level and be prepared to respond if ice jams do develop.

The service also issued a snow advisory Monday for the western Kenai Peninsula, particularly around Kachemak Bay, saying snow could be expected through at least Wednesday.

Highway travel could be hazardous through the week, as the chance of snow and frigid temperatures were predicted to continue through the coming weekend, as well.

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net.



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