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Talkeetna evacuation under way in face of rising water (+VIDEO)

Laurel Andrews
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
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

Update 1:00 p.m. Thursday: Believing that the flooding of Talkeetna may be imminent, authorities asked residents to evacuate mid-day Friday. According to KTUU, the Susitna River is backing up to the Talkeetna River, causing a dike to fail that has led to rapidly rising water.

Students at Talkeetna Elementary School students were being moved to Su Valley High School just after noon.

Talkeetna's Front Street was under water by 1 p.m. 

Also on the Matanuska-Susitna Borough's Facebook page, Christine Dean said the Little Susitna River "behind Miller's Market is getting very high, already two cabins with about 4 feet of water coming up them and it's steadily growing.  River has probably tripled in width at the bridge and most of the surrounding wooded areas are completely flooded."

Earlier, days of rain and high winds caused widespread flooding across Southcentral Alaska, with voluntary evacuations in flood-prone areas from the Matanuska Valley to the Kenai Peninsula.

Original story, 7 p.m. Wednesday:

Matanuska Valley

Wasilla

Flash flooding was a problem Wednesday night into Thursday, with Lucille Street in Wasilla underwater around midnight, according to Carol Vardeman, a spokesperson for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Vardeman said that  water was already waist-deep by the time rescue crews arrived at flooded homes; by the time the crew got boats unloaded, water had risen to chest-deep levels. By the time boats were dispatched, the water was "over their heads," Vardeman said. She didn't know what caused the flash flooding but noted that the homes were in a "marshy area."

With the ground heavily saturated from all the rain, perhaps it was just “one drop too many,” she said. A total of 13 people were rescued from five homes, which were still flooded Thursday.

The Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center, which monitors rivers across the state, wasn't certain what caused flash flooding in Wasilla. Some have speculated that the Little Su River was the source, but forecaster Arlene Lundsford called that unlikely because the river is 2 miles from where the flash flood occurred.

The Red Cross has set up the Menard Sports Center as a shelter; 20 cots are available, along with showers and food.

Willow/Talkeetna

In Willow, an evacuation notice was issued by state and local officials for folks living between Shirley Town Road and the Parks Highway, and along Willow Creek to Willow Fishhook Road. The Willow Community Center has 25 cots available for those needing shelter.

The Talkeetna River had risen to 12 feet as of 11 a.m. Thursday, with flooding in parts of town, according to the KTNA Talkeetna Facebook page. The river crested spilled out onto Mercedes Road, closing it and several other roads. Residents of 30 homes in the River Subdivision had been asked to evacuate by the fire department. KTNA also reported that the Yoder Road Bridge had reportedly been damaged by Montana Creek flooding as rising waters eroded a dike. Water levels at Main Street in Talkeetna appear to be up 5 or 6 feet above normal, KTNA News Director Lorien Nettleton said, adding that most flooding was "minor" but had made for an "interesting, long night."

Water levels on the Talkeetna River are expected to continue rising, according to the National Weather Service. A flood warning remains in effect in the Susitna Valley, in effect through 6 p.m. Thursday. Talkeetna’s Sunshine Center has 30 cots available for those needing shelter.

Seward

Flooding left parts of the coastal town of Seward under water Thursday but no injuries had been reported, according to officials there. Subdivisions were closed off due to high waters and flooding creeks, Mayor David Seaward said, and many residents reported property damage.

The Seward Highway, which leads into town from Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, remained open, but "trouble spots" prompted officials to recommend against traveling if at all possible Thursday. A rundown of flooding-related closures in Seward, according to city spokesperson Johanna Kinney:

  • Old Mill Road, just north of Seward, was closed;
  • Exit Glacier Road was cut off;
  • Lowell Point Road, which traces the sea's edge, was closed, too. Residents living out Lowell Point Road were said to be "hunkering down" until flooding subsides.
  • Dieckgraeff Road was closed
  • Nash Road was closed

Crews have also been working "around the clock" to remove debris that was washing down the Lowell Creek waterfall onto a bridge, Kinney said.

The city had converted Seward High School into a shelter, where at least 13 people stayed overnight, according to Mayor Seaward. Emergency crews were preparing for a high tide at 4:40 p.m., Thursday, which was expected to crest higher than Wednesday. Anyone needing evacuation assistance was instructed to call (907) 224-4041.

School was canceled for Seward on Friday. Shelter operations were suspended due to little to no use by residents.

Kenai

A flood warning was in effect on the Kenai River from Kenai Lake to the mouth of the river, through 7 p.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. At Cooper Landing, the Kenai River water level stage was at 12.8 feet as of 10 a.m. Thursday; flood stage is 13 feet. The river was forecast to continue rising over the next 48 to 72 hours and expected to crest near 15.5 feet Sunday. Downstream, the Kenai River is expected to rise steadily and crest over the weekend, with minor flooding early next week.

Additional flood watches were issued for the Anchor and Ninilchik rivers, along with Stariski and Deep creeks, according to the Peninsula Clarion.

Rain is expected to continue through Monday, according to the National Weather Service. Flood watches and advisories were widespread across Southcentral Alaska, from the Mat-Su to Anchorage and the Kenai. Read more, here.

 

Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at)alaskadispatch.com