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Inch of rain per day in September leaves Seward reeling

Suzanna Caldwell
Mike Morgansen bikes through a flooded tunnel in the Chester Creek greenbelt on September 20, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
A pedestrian on a flooded boardwalk on Campbell Creek. September 20, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Flooded Campbell Creek. September 20, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Flooded Campbell Creek. September 20, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Workers clearing debris below Seward's flooded Lowell canyon waterfall. September 20, 2012
Mike Meeks / City of Seward
Flooded lot on Seward's Salmon Creek road. September 20, 2012
Mike Meeks / City of Seward
Debris blocking a downtown Seward street. September 20, 2012
Mike Meeks / City of Seward
The flooded Resurrection River in Seward. September 20, 2012
Mike Meeks / City of Seward
Seward's Old Mill subdivision flooding. September 20, 2012
City of Seward via Seward Journal
Seward's Lowell canyon tunnel during the flood. September 20, 2012
City of Seward via Seward Journal
A flash flood hit a neighborhood in a cul-de-sac outside Wasilla. A flash flood had rescuers paddling 10 residents to safety at 1 a.m. Thursday morning, September 20, 2012.
Jon Burns / Manauska-Susitna Borough
Engineer Jennifer Luce with her haul of rescues, two furry ones.
Jon Burns / Manauska-Susitna Borough
A member of the Mat-Su Borough Water Rescue Team.
Jon Burns / Manauska-Susitna Borough
The flooded Seward Highway at MP 3.5. September 20, 2012
Carl High / Alaska DOT&PF
Flooding on Seward's Nash Road at MP 0.25. September 19, 2012
Carl High / Alaska DOT&PF
Flooded Exit Glacier Road in Seward. September 19, 2012
Carl High / Alaska DOT&PF

Residents of Seward, Alaska, are no strangers to rainy weather. But this month has been unrelenting. “It's been a deluge, coming down like a faucet,” said longtime resident Kim Kowalski-Rogers. “It's not just misty, dripping rain.”

Kowalski-Rogers has lived in Seward her entire life, more than 50 years, and she's never seen rain fall like it's been falling this month. And she probably never has.

According to the National Weather Service, soggy Seward should break its September rainfall record handily. With a week left, unofficial counts have the total September rainfall at “30-plus” inches, according to National Weather Service hydrometeorologist Dave Stricklan. That inch-per-day average should surpass the record of 29.75 inches set in 1995.

Rivers of rain

Erin Lemas, 27, has lived in Seward most of her life, too, and her family has been in Seward since before Alaska’s huge 1964 earthquake. Lemas was relieved that Tuesday finally felt normal, following nearly a week of rain that was a “complete shit show.”

But rain in the coastal community 150 miles south of Anchorage is common. Average September rainfall is 10.1 inches.

“Lots of rain” is a relative term, noted Lemas, an event coordinator for the chamber of commerce. “It depends on how you judge it. I judge it when there's a giant river going across the highway. That's bad.”

Still, Betty Casey, who has lived in Seward since 1947, said the community hasn't endured such a deluge in a long time. Casey lives “up high,” near the hospital located at the base of Mount Marathon. But she feels for other Seward residents affected by flooding in low-lying areas. “It's not very pleasant,” she said.

The rain isn't expected to stop soon. More is in the forecast for this week.

Talkeetna record, too

And Seward isn't the only Alaska community poised to break a September rainfall record.

Stricklan said the Talkeetna weather station has unofficially reported 10.4 inches of rain this month, above the record of 10.22 inches set in 1990. Because of potential errors in electronic monitoring, Stricklan said it could take between 30 to 90 days to know what the official record is.

“I would say we're on the edge of a record” for Talkeetna, he said.

Residents of the tourist town, a two-and-a-half-hour drive north of Anchorage, were asked to evacuate after the flood waters breached the town's levees last week. Seward, on the Kenai Peninsula south of Alaska’s largest city, had to close part of its runway due to encroaching flood waters.

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell declared a state disaster in the Mat-Su Valley. A few roads remain closed, but a couple of days without much rain has helped stabalize the situation.

No. 3 for Anchorage

Residents of Alaska’s largest city, battered hard by storms this month, are reeling a bit, too. But Anchorage isn't on track to break any records.

The 5.72 inches of rain that have fallen on Anchorage this month make for the city's third-wettest September on record. But it's unlikely Anchorage will surpass the record 7.35 inches set in 2004. Cloudy weather and light scattered showers are expected through Sunday, Stricklan said.

Multiple storm systems have blown through the city this month, including a windstorm that caused days-long power outages and ripped trees and flagpoles out of the ground.

While Anchorage and the Mat-Su might be resting easy, a flood warning for the western Kenai Peninsula continues through 5 p.m. Thursday, when the Kenai River is expected to crest.

Contact Suzanna Caldwell at suzanna(at)alaskadispatch.com

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, the age of Erin Lemas was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.