The effect of widespread flooding last autumn across Southcentral Alaska is lingering into spring, as the Matanuska-Susitna Borough works to save roads from water flowing from the still-saturated ground.
Last autumn, flooding across Southcentral caused extensive damage to the region, from flash-flooding in Wasilla to evacuations in Talkeetna. “We sustained a lot of road damage,” spokesperson Patty Sullivan said on Tuesday, noting that 40 roads were impassable in the Mat-Su Borough during that flooding. “Now here we are this spring … and different roads are succumbing to moisture.”
Spring has come late this year, delaying what's known across Alaska as "break-up," when the ground thaws and river ice melts. In Mat-Su, the ground is still frozen and saturated from last year’s flooding, leaving “no place for the (rain) to go,” Sullivan said.
“This is a very unusual year,” Acting Public Works Director Jim Jenson said in a press release. “We had so much water in the ground with the September floods, and then it froze, and now it’s trying to thaw,” Jenson said.
Crews are “running ragged” trying to fix the roads, Sullivan said. In some areas, crews are laying down irrigation pipes to direct water off roadways. In other areas, they’ve laid down mud mats which allow vehicles to cross a road without destroying it. Other roads have had to be closed.
Most of the affected roads are not paved, so heavy rigs driving over it could cause damage. At least one home has also reported being flooded out.
A dozen public works officials and additional contractors are working in each of the borough’s 16 road-service areas, Sullivan said.
All the affected roads are maintained by the borough, meaning Mat-Su will pick up the tab. So far, the borough hasn’t figured out exact costs, but buying the mud mats cost $15,000, Sullivan said.
Yet even as the borough scrambles to keep roads from washing out, May showers in the forecast could present the borough with additional difficulties.
A complete list of roads affected by water overflow is listed in Monday’s press release.
Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at)alaskadispatch.com