Flooding, landslides close roads in Prince of Wales Island

Devin Kelly
Alaska State Troopers

The record amount of rainfall that pounded Southeast Alaska overnight downed power lines, washed out roads and triggered flooding and mudslides on Prince of Wales Island, troopers said.

The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for streams and small rivers on the island as well as elsewhere on the Panhandle, including Juneau and Ketchikan.

On Prince of Wales Island, south of Sitka, washed out roads and culverts and knocked at least one cabin off its foundations, said Beth Ipsen, Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman. Three communities -- Hollis, Coffman Cove and Whales Pass -- were cut off from the rest of the island by the floods.

One landslide blocked traffic on Klawock Hollis Highway at Harris River Road, and knocked a nearby cabin over, Ipsen said. She said the owner of the cabin was standing outside his home at the time of the slide and was not hurt.

A second mudslide blocked Coffman Cove Road between miles 22 and 23, Ipsen said. A photo posted on the troopers' Facebook page shows a pile of fallen trees on the roadway.

Rushing water also washed out the road between Whales Pass and Naukati, Ipsen said.

"Travel is not advisable as roads have already been hindered or made impassable in parts of the island," the troopers said on Facebook.

For anyone planning to venture out, Ipsen cautioned: If there's any water on the road, don't drive into it.

"You could get swept away," she said.

No flooding-related injuries have been reported, troopers said.

The warnings came as Tuesday emerged as one of the wettest January days for the region in decades, forecasters said.

Since midnight, a total of 4.01 inches fell in Sitka, said Kimberly Vaughan, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Juneau. That eclipsed the previous record for the day, set in 1965 at 3.23 inches.

The Tuesday total also marked a daily record for the entire month of January, Vaughan said. The previous record of 3.85 inches was set in 1963.

Melting snow and winds blowing up to 44 miles per hour accentuated the flooding's impact, Vaughan said.

The Southeast storm is different from the fast-moving series of tempests now headed for Southcentral Alaska.

Reach Devin Kelly at dkelly@adn.com or 257-4314.


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