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As floods recede, Talkeetna cleans up

Casey Grove
Tod Marder cleans up after the flooding at his Talkeetna home on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Bill Barstow moves stuff to higher ground as the water rose in Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Katie Writer prepares to give retired sled dog Abby a ride to the house as her husband Tod Marder steadies the windsurfing board on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mark Forrester pumps water out of a friend's business as residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Pink flamingos stand in flood waters outside a Talkeetna Information Center Friday, September 21, 2012.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
Drainage ditches were cut in strategic places allowing the water to bypass structures in downtown Talkeetna. Residents have begun the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Ross Benischek and Bill Barstow move stuff to higher ground as the water rose in Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mike Krepel works to remove flood water in the ground floor of the Museum of Northern Adventure in downtown Talkeentna on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mark Forrester pumps water out of a friend's business as residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Pilot Ed Dearwent evacuates as high water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mike Krepel works to remove flood water in the ground floor of the Museum of Northern Adventure in downtown Talkeentna on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mark Forrester pumps water out of a friend's business as residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Sand bags from Friday night's effort to redirect the flooding, line a road near the old airstrip in downtown Talkeetna on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Pilot Ed Dearwent evacuates as high water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mike Krepel works to remove flood water in the ground floor of the Museum of Northern Adventure in downtown Talkeentna on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
A ditch funnels water away from town and dumps it back into the Talkeetna River on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
A church in Talkeetna was flooded all the way up to the altar.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Caitlin Palmer leaves her home after checking on it during the flooding in Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mike Krepel removes leaves to prevent clogging a water pump as he works to remove flood water in the ground floor of the Museum of Northern Adventure in downtown Talkeentna on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Gov. Sean Parnell and Maj. Gen. Katkus look at areas flooding in Talkeetna, Friday, September 21, 2012.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
A church in Talkeetna was flooded all the way up to the altar.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Ray Struble evacuates as high water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mike Krepel works to remove flood water in the ground floor of the Museum of Northern Adventure in downtown Talkeentna on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Tod Marder said the only way to access his home during the flood was to use his canoe as the water level reached 4 feet deep in his yard on Friday.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mark Forrester pumps water out of a friend's business as residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
K2 pilot Greg Sanoski watches former K2 Aviation owner Jim Okonek preflight an airplane that Okonek was getting ready to fly to another airport as high water began to surround the Talkeetna airport on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mike Krepel grabs a bucket of water to prime a water pump as he worked to remove flooding on the ground floor of the Museum of Northern Adventure in downtown Talkeentna on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Katie Writer and Tod Marder prepare to fire up a water pump to remove standing water around their Talkeetna home on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mark Forrester pumps water out of a friend's business as residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Pink flamingos stand in flood waters outside a Talkeetna Information Center Friday, September 21, 2012.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Museum of Northern Adventure owner Jenny Krepel looks at the water level going down on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012. Krepel estimates the water level reached at least two feet deep on the ground floor of the museum.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Tod Marder and Katie Writer prepare to fire up a water pump to remove standing water around their Talkeetna home on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Katie Writer prepares to give retired sled dog Abby a ride to the house as her husband Tod Marder steadies the windsurfing board on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mark Forrester pumps water out of a friend's business as residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Jenny and Mike Krepel, owners of Talkeetna Gifts and Collectables and the Museum of Northern Adventure next door, began the process of removing water from the ground floor of the museum on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Katie Writer and Tod Marder prepare to fire up a water pump to remove standing water around their Talkeetna home on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mike Krepel works to remove flood water in the ground floor of the Museum of Northern Adventure in downtown Talkeentna on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Caitlin Palmer looks for a way to check on her home as the high water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mark Forrester pumps water out of a friend's business as residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Drainage ditches were cut in strategic places allowing the water to bypass structures in downtown Talkeetna. Residents have begun the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Tod Marder cleans up after the flooding at his Talkeetna home on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mike Krepel works to remove flood water in the ground floor of the Museum of Northern Adventure in downtown Talkeentna on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Bill Barstow moves stuff to higher ground as the water rose in Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mark Forrester pumps water out of a friend's business as residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Marvin Milam with dogs Mikey and Piper head for high ground during the flooding in Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mike Krepel works to remove flood water in the ground floor of the Museum of Northern Adventure in downtown Talkeentna on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Ross Benischek and Bill Barstow move stuff to higher ground as the water rose in Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
A ditch funnels water away from town and dumps it back into the Talkeetna River on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Gov. Sean Parnell and Maj. Gen. Katkus look at areas flooding in Talkeetna, Friday, September 21, 2012.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Sand bags from Friday night's effort to redirect the flooding, line a road near the old airstrip in downtown Talkeetna on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mike Krepel removes leaves to prevent clogging a water pump as he works to remove flood water in the ground floor of the Museum of Northern Adventure in downtown Talkeentna on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Tod Marder said the only way to access his home during the flood was to use his canoe as the water level reached 4 feet deep in his yard on Friday.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
A church in Talkeetna was flooded all the way up to the altar.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mike Krepel works to remove flood water in the ground floor of the Museum of Northern Adventure in downtown Talkeentna on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Katie Writer and Tod Marder prepare to fire up a water pump to remove standing water around their Talkeetna home on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
A church in Talkeetna was flooded all the way up to the altar.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Caitlin Palmer leaves her home after checking on it during the flooding in Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mike Krepel grabs a bucket of water to prime a water pump as he worked to remove flooding on the ground floor of the Museum of Northern Adventure in downtown Talkeentna on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Tod Marder and Katie Writer prepare to fire up a water pump to remove standing water around their Talkeetna home on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
High water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Volunteers place sand bags at the end of Main Street as high water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mark Forrester pumps water out of a friend's business as residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Ray Struble evacuates as high water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Museum of Northern Adventure owner Jenny Krepel looks at the water level going down on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012. Krepel estimates the water level reached at least two feet deep on the ground floor of the museum.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Katie Writer and Tod Marder prepare to fire up a water pump to remove standing water around their Talkeetna home on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Caitlin Palmer looks for a way to check on her home as the high water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Stephen Hanson of the State DOT looks at high water began to flood parts of Talkeetna on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mark Forrester pumps water out of a friend's business as residents of Talkeetna began the process cleaning up after the high water receded on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
K2 pilot Greg Sanoski watches former K2 Aviation owner Jim Okonek preflight an airplane that Okonek was getting ready to fly to another airport as high water began to surround the Talkeetna airport on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Jenny and Mike Krepel, owners of Talkeetna Gifts and Collectables and the Museum of Northern Adventure next door, began the process of removing water from the ground floor of the museum on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News

TALKEETNA -- Instead of the "wall of water" many had feared would hit this small community, at the meeting place of three rain-swollen rivers, a sense of relief washed over town Saturday as residents woke to see flood water subsiding.

Still, in the newer neighborhood on the east side of town, residents were hit hard. The nearby Talkeetna River, backed up at its confluence with the already flood-stage Susitna River, jumped its banks, rushed into basements and first floors of the lower-lying houses, and covered roads in a foot or more of silty water Friday.

The chocolate-milk-colored water poured westward, stopped only by a berm holding up the normally busy railroad tracks, then surged through a culvert running under the tracks and headed toward downtown.

Rushing under the tracks, the water flooded the first floor of the Museum of Northern Adventure and partially eroded the foundation of a gift store across the road.

Residents worked late Friday night and into the early morning hours Saturday laying down sandbags and digging out ditches to divert the water away from downtown. Using heavy equipment through the night, state Department of Transportation crews dug out ditches and cleared debris to improve drainage in East Talkeetna.

On Saturday, the effort turned from protecting town to cleaning it up.

Officials warned anyone getting water from wells not to drink it because of a contamination risk. Initial tests by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough indicated the water was safe, but officials were waiting for the state Department of Environmental Conservation to conduct more stringent testing before calling the water safe, said Maureen McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, who was helping disseminate information for incident commanders.

The incident commanders are also recommending that residents cleaning up debris sitting in contaminated water wear rubber gloves and even masks to avoid getting sick, McLaughlin said. The local refuse transfer site, which usually charges $1 per bag of garbage, was taking flood debris for free, and a large trash bin had been set near the airport, close to the more-damaged homes, she said.

The emergency managers were still uncertain Saturday exactly how many homes had been affected by the flood, but early reports indicated as many as 100 had seen some impact.

"Certainly, almost everyone in East Talkeetna is going to have some damage, but we haven't heard tales of significant structural damage," McLaughlin said. "Cleanup is definitely going to be a major task for the next few days."

"There were a lot of people working real hard out there all night long. Some of them are getting sleep now, and hopefully they'll freshen up," she said. "The worst, hopefully, is over, but we definitely can't stand down. We've got rain in the forecast, so we'll take that as it comes."

There were no injuries reported due to the flooding, McLaughlin said. One man had been rescued from his gravel bar campsite after a branch of the river turned it into an island, and a helicopter picked up two others in Sherman, up the railroad tracks from Talkeetna, after the water stranded them there, McLaughlin said.

A flood warning remains in effect for the Susitna Valley through Sunday morning. An updated advisory from the National Weather Service on Saturday morning said rivers and streams draining from the Talkeetna Mountains have crested and fell steadily Friday night, and rain expected on Saturday wasn't expected to cause river levels to rise back to high levels of Friday.

Rivers in the western Susitna basin, including the Yentna and Skwentna rivers, will get more rain this weekend and are likely to rise, the Weather Service said.

Longtime residents called Friday's surge the worst flooding they'd seen in more than 30 years.

"Luckily, we didn't have any buildings float away," said Mike Krepel, who, with his wife Jenny, runs the Museum of Northern Adventure.

Saturday afternoon, Krepel was using a pump -- sucking 125 gallons a minute out of the building, he said -- to remove water from the museum's flooded first floor. In a flurry of action, the Krepels had moved the museum's exhibits and other at-risk items to safety, he said.

"It blew its way in pretty quick," Krepel said. "We don't think we lost anything important. We were going pretty hard for several hours."

Jenny Krepel said she had worried that burglars might take advantage of the evacuations and steal things from the museum's gift shop.

"I'm thankful the troopers were turning people around outside of town who didn't have a reason to be here," she said. "It was really quiet in town, and we couldn't shut the doors because we were pumping water out."

The Krepels planned to remove damaged sheetrock and plywood and, like many others, were calling their insurance company to get an assessment.

In East Talkeetna, Mark Forrester was pumping water out of the basement of Alaska Mountaineering School. His friends, the owners, had evacuated their horses, birds, a turtle and a dog, but couldn't save their fish and an eel, which were in about four feet of water covering the floor, Forrester said.

"They looked like they could use some help," he said, manning the pump. "I think it'll take a while."

Down the street, Renamary Rauchenstein was checking on the Catholic church, St. Bernard Parish, which was surrounded by water Saturday that had flooded the building the day before.

Plans were in the works to hold Sunday service at a church in Trapper Creek, nearby on the Parks Highway, she said.

"We might start with a prayer here," said Rauchenstein, the church's administrator. "But we'll have to see about the cleanup. It's going to take a lot. That silt doesn't come out easily."

"It came up all the way to the altar," she said. "You can see the line of silt on the altar steps. What a mess."

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

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By CASEY GROVE
Anchorage Daily News