Flood warning for Kenai River extended

September 23, 2012 

Update 4 p.m. Monday:

The National Weather Service has extended a flood warning for the Kenai River until 5 p.m. on Thursday.

The area included in the warning extends from Kenai Lake to the mouth of the river.

At Cooper Landing, the river is at moderate flood stage with waters cresting Monday at 16 feet, according to the National Weather Service. Water levels are expected to drop Thursday.

The NWS also says that the river will continue to rise below Skilak Lake, likely cresting Tuesday.

Rain is expected in the area Tuesday night and Wednesday.

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Update 2 p.m. Monday:

An Alaska Railroad spokeswoman says washouts of track and lost revenue likely will cost the line more than $1 million.

But Stephenie Wheeler says the state-owned railroad is progressing faster than projected repairing damaged track from a major washout north of Talkeetna.

About 500 feet of mainline track were left dangling Saturday near Gold Creek.

Wheeler says crews have been working round the clock to make repairs and the main line could open as early as Tuesday, a day earlier than projected.

The area is in a 70-mile stretch of rail corridor between Willow and Gold Creek where high water from heavy rain has affected track and several bridges.

Trains between Anchorage and Fairbanks have not operated since Wednesday.

-- Dan Joling, Associated Press

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Update noon Monday:

The National Weather Service has extended the Nenana River flood warning until 12:15 p.m. Tuesday. Water rising in low-lying areas in the town of Nenana.

Update 11:30 a.m. Monday:

Mat-Su Borough officials say Talkeetna residents should continue to boil their water Monday while crews test the safety of water sources.

On the Kenai Peninsula, some people living in low-lying areas near the rising Kenai River are being advised to evacuate.

The river is expected to rise 6 inches, according to the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

A National Weather Service flood warning has been extended until 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Residents of the Kenai Keys subdivision near Sterling and the Big Eddy subdivision near Soldotna have been told to prepare for a possible evacuation, said Kenai Pensinsula Borough spokeswoman Brenda Ahlberg. Some people in Cooper Landing have voluntarily evacuated.

So far, the borough hasn't fielded any requests for shelter, Ahlberg said.

The river is expected crest midday Monday but water could still rise after that, borough officials said.

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Update 10:45 a.m. Monday:

The Kenai River Special Management Area will be closed to all boating traffic starting at 1 p.m. Monday due to high water levels, according to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

State parks director Ben Ellis ordered the closure due to flooding conditions that make river travel unsafe, according to DNR.

It is only the second time in the history of the Kenai River Special Management Area that a closure has been ordered by the director, a DNR spokeswoman said in a release. The other instance was during flooding in 1995.

The management area starts at Mile 82 of the Kenai River and runs downstream to four miles above the river's mouth on the Cook Inlet. It includes state parks, municipal, borough, federal and private lands.

Skilak and Kenai Lakes are still open.

The river will reopen to boat traffic when the water levels subsides.

-- Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News

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Sunday evening update:

By RACHEL D'ORO, The Associated Press

A flood warning in Alaska's waterlogged Kenai Peninsula has been extended, with some homes already hit by moderate flooding Sunday, forcing residents to move to higher ground.

The flood warning is now in effect until 10 p.m. Tuesday for the Kenai River from the mouth of the river to Kenai Lake, the National Weather Service said.

Meteorologist Andy Dixon said another weather pattern expected this week should keep the extreme rains that southcentral Alaska has experienced limited to the Gulf of Alaska, affecting coastal communities.

In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, some Cooper Landing residents in lower elevations reported basements flooded with as much as four feet of water, according to borough spokeswoman Brenda Ahlberg. She said moderate flooding also was reported in the Anchor Point area, affecting some homes and roads. Flooding also was reported in other parts of the peninsula.

Ahlberg said a conservative estimate of the area hit was 14,000 residents have been affected directly, such as flooded properties, and indirectly such as closed roads and bridges because of flooding or landslides. That estimate does not include residents living along the Kenai River and that number was not yet determined Sunday, Ahlberg said.

According to the borough, state regulators warned that flooded residential wells may be contaminated and said residents in flooded areas should boil water to be used for consumption or cleaning.

The high water levels were more runoff from heavy rain Saturday than from Sunday's intermittent light showers, according to the weather service.

Hydrologist Dave Streubel said the rate of rise in the Lower Kenai River should peak Monday. But the peak will last for some time before waters recede.

To the north, water levels continued to recede in Talkeetna, allowing residents to continue cleaning up the muddy mess. A DEC boil-water recommendation also was in effect for Talkeetna and other flooded part of the state.

Water levels had fallen four to seven feet from their peak, Streubel said, calling the storms that have soaked southcentral Alaska "just one big event."

"For us, it had a wide footprint," he said.

The Alaska Senate State Affairs Committee announced Sunday it would meet Monday in Anchorage to discuss emergency response systems in the wake of the severe storms that affected parts of southcentral and interior Alaska. The meeting also will include a public comment session.

Gov. Sean Parnell declared a state disaster Friday for communities hard-hit by recent storms. The declaration covers the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, which includes Talkeetna, Wasilla and several other towns, the governor's office said. A flood warning remained in effect in for the Susitna Valley until 10 p.m. Sunday, particularly around the Yenta River.

In Alaska's interior, a flood warning also remained in effect until late Sunday night for the Nenana River downstream of the Rex Bridge.

Ted Fathauer, a weather service meteorologist in Fairbanks, said rain in the region was minimal Sunday. But flooding was reported in Nenana, where groundwater soil was seeping to the surface of porous soil. He said no houses were affected that he knew of.

"But it ain't over until it's over," he said. "And it ain't over yet."

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