MONDAY 4 P.M. UPDATE
An avalanche delayed traffic for roughly two hours today on the Seward Highway, north of Girdwood. More delays are expected Tuesday morning as crews attempt to thwart additional slides.
The 11:30 a.m. avalanche “affected” all three lanes of the highway at Mile 95, south of Bird Point, Transportation Department spokesman Rick Feller wrote in an email. Crews used artillery to perform avalanche prevention work in the area before clearing the debris. The highway fully re-opened at 1:30 p.m., Feller wrote.
The avalanche followed a rockfall that delayed highway traffic closer to Anchorage earlier in the day. That fall, at 5:30 a.m., temporarily closed one lane of Seward Highway traffic in the Falls Creek area, north of Indian, the spokesman said. The rock fall was at Mile 106. All debris had been cleared from the roadway by 9 a.m.
Expect more delays tomorrow.
The Transportation Department plans to perform avalanche prevention work between Girdwood and Portage from 9 to 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to the department’s road hazard website, http://511.alaska.gov.
Drivers should expect up to 45-minute delays.
MONDAY NOON UPDATE
The National Weather Service has called off a flood advisory for rain and melting snow in Anchorage. City boiler trucks are thawing frozen drains on roads across the city, meantime, to clear water-logged streets.
Mariner Drive in South Anchorage is the only road closed due to flooding, public works officials say.
Persistent rain, beginning Friday in many areas of Anchorage, turned many streets to ice rinks over the weekend, prompting district officials to close city schools Monday. A daily record of .4 inches of rain fell Sunday at the National Weather Service office south of the airport, said hydro-meteorological technician Dave Stricklan.
Street maintenance workers have been called to three flooded homes since the rainfall began, said operations general foreman Paul VanLandingham.
“If we don’t get any more rain and the temperatures hold what they are now … I’m thinking tomorrow evening, if not earlier, we’re going to be in pretty good shape,” VanLandingham said.
Most main and secondary streets are clear to the pavement, he said, though many neighborhoods remain slick. The city urged people to call 343-8277 to report potholes that appear as the ice thaws.
It was about 45 degrees in Anchorage at noon. The warm weather and stubborn rainfall are creating the kind of problems that workers typically see in spring, not January, said operations and maintenance director Alan Czajkowski.
Mariner Drive will likely remain closed through Tuesday due to flooding, Czajkowski said. A blocked culvert under Johns Road, south of Klatt Road, swamped the roadway, which is a common spring occurrence, he said.
Nine steam trucks and four crews are popping drains today, clearing water from roadways.
The previous daily record for rainfall in the area of the National Weather Service office was a quarter inch in 1928.
Far more rain fell in the Hillside over the weekend, with one Hillside observer reporting 2.66 inches through Sunday, Stricklan said.
Look for partly cloudy skies and temperatures to cool to the 20s tonight in the Anchorage Bowl.
“We’ll see some improvements here,” Stricklan said. “Pretty much just scattered showers by early afternoon. By tonight, we’re looking to see some isolated rain and snow showers as temperatures drop.”
One accident with injuries was reported between midnight and about 11 a.m. today in Anchorage and Eagle River, a police spokeswoman said.
Sunday night story:
A steady rain on Sunday — unusual for Anchorage in January — caused minor flooding along some streets and trouble for drivers on side streets slick with water on ice, according to police and city officials.
Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna school districts said on their Facebook pages that they had not yet made a decision on whether to hold school on Monday. Anchorage officials say they’ll make an announcement after crews drive streets in the early morning. Mat-Su officials similarly were continuing to evaluate the road conditions.
The National Weather Service on Sunday said a high wind warning for Turnagain Arm and the Anchorage Hillside would be in effect until 11 a.m. Monday. Forecasters were predicting winds of 40-to-60 mph with gusts as big as 85 mph. The Weather Service also issued a flood watch for Anchorage, the Mat-Su, the Western Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound that it attributed to a combination of rain and melting snow.
The rain should stop by Monday afternoon, but the temperature will remain warmer than normal and reach again into the 40s, the Weather Service said.
Between midnight Saturday and 8 p.m Sunday, Anchorage police responded to 28 accidents, another three crashes with injuries, and 40 reports of vehicles in distress, police spokeswoman Anita Shell said.
City street maintenance crews on Sunday were sanding roads and using a grader to roughen ice, said Teri Albrecht, public information officer for the Public Works Department. They were following up on reports of standing water on roads and used a boiler truck to open frozen drains, she said. The main roads were clear, she said. They also were monitoring creeks for signs of flooding, she said.
Meanwhile city officials have received scattered reports of flooding on city streets and are advising people not to drive through standing water. People reported flooding on Northern Lights Boulevard west of Minnesota Drive, on low-lying spots on A Street, and on Elmore Road, said Dawn Brantley, emergency programs manager.
A car can stall in a foot of water, she said. “This could get a little bit worse before it gets better.”
Current Alaska weather warnings and advisories
By KYLE HOPKINS and LISA DEMER
Anchorage Daily News