Flood warnings still active for Kenai River, western Sound

Disaster officials still in response mode; Seward levels still rising.

Anchorage Daily NewsSeptember 25, 2012 

As flood-stricken residents of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough continued to clean up Tuesday, those living farther south on the Kenai Peninsula dealt with high water of their own.

The Upper Kenai River crested Monday, registering 16 feet on a river gauge at Cooper Landing. Farther down the river, the water level was rising early Tuesday but expected to start dropping later in the day, forecasters said. With more rain expected in Seward, water could continue to rise there, according to the National Weather Service.

A flood warning remains in effect until 5 p.m. Thursday for the Kenai River and western Prince William Sound. Weather service forecaster Dave Stricklan described the flooding in the Kenai River area as moderate, just above flood stage.

"Everything should be on the way down by now," Stricklan said Tuesday afternoon. "It's pretty settled down ... We do have some more rain coming, but it doesn't look like it's going to do any increase to the water levels."

With state and local emergency officials still in response mode, it's difficult to guess how many Kenai Peninsula homes or businesses have seen flooding, said Brenda Ahlberg, a spokeswoman for the Kenai Peninsula Borough. The first priority was to make sure residents were safe and that roads stayed open to traffic before an "assessment phase" could begin, Ahlberg said.

"You're talking about one end of the peninsula to the other," Ahlberg said. "The estimate, and I think it's a conservative estimate, is 14,000 people have been affected either directly or indirectly by the flooding. And that's homeowners and those who are affected by the inability to use roads and bridges."

Voluntary evacuations had gone smoothly with little help from emergency responders, Ahlberg said.

"We've had no calls on this side (of the peninsula) for evacuations," she said. "People have been self-evacuating with friends and neighbors. I think that's just the spirit of being Alaskans."

For now, the borough is warning residents with wells to treat or boil water before drinking it, due to possible contamination. Ahlberg said anyone with waterfront property should try to secure outdoor items, like the trash cans and propane tanks seen floating down the Kenai, because "it benefits us all to keep the river clean," she said.

Anyone with flood damage should take pictures of any affected material before throwing it out and keep receipts of any expenses from repairing or cleaning up property, Ahlberg said.

That goes for Mat-Su Borough residents, too, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. Alaskans affected by the recent flooding might be eligible for state or federal disaster assistance, he said.

"We're working on which programs will be activated," Zidek said.

Meanwhile, cleanup continues in Willow and Talkeetna. Homeowners with flooded floors or walls are advised to remove the damaged material to prevent sickness from contamination or mold, Zidek said.

"The stuff can really create some health problems," he said. "If it got wet by the flood waters, people need to document it and discard it."

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.

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