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‘Atmospheric river’ from the tropics pours rain on Southcentral Alaska

  • Author: Zaz Hollander
  • Updated: August 22, 2018
  • Published August 22, 2018

McCarthy Road was closed Tuesday due to mud slide at Mile 58. It was partially reopened Wednesday morning. (Photo courtesy of Dan Frost via Alaska 511)

Days of rain have triggered flooding in Cordova and caused problems on at least two major roads in Alaska.

State transportation officials Wednesday issued twin alerts for mudslides on the Taylor Highway, which runs from near Tok to Eagle, and the rough 60-mile road from Chitina to McCarthy.

Mudslides and minor flooding from heavy rains were causing delays for clearing on the Taylor Highway from Mile 67 to 160, according to an alert Wednesday morning. The road remained open, however.

Jack Wade Creek was causing some erosion problems at Mile 84, where traffic was reduced to one lane, according to state transportation spokeswoman Caitlin Frye.

The road to McCarthy was down to one lane Wednesday morning after a mudslide at Mile 58 on Tuesday evening, according to another update from the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Both lanes of traffic reopened by early afternoon Wednesday.

The rain is the result of an "atmospheric river" that's drawing large amounts of moisture from the equatorial Pacific Ocean, according to the National Weather Service.

The system brought as much as 5 inches of rain to Cordova in a little more than two days, according to NWS meteorologist Dave Kochevar in Anchorage. Valdez received 2 to 2 1/2 inches and Portage logged more than 3 inches.

Rain totals over that period were lower for Anchorage and the Matanuska Valley, where about an inch of rain fell, Kochevar said. The Susitna Valley got a little less.

A flood advisory was in effect until 5 p.m. Wednesday for Cordova, where 3 inches of rain had fallen in 24 hours and another inch was expected, according to the weather service. Heavy rain was causing area streams, rivers and lakes to rise.

Water along Power Creek began inundating a road Monday and continued to rise, the agency said. High water on Eyak Lake was impacting a weir.

Forecasters said water levels were expected to begin falling Wednesday afternoon as heavy rain moved east.

The forecast for Southcentral showed Wednesday would probably be "one of the best days" in the next week or so, Kochevar said.

Another system moving through the East Aleutians was expected to bring more rain Thursday — just in time for the start of the Alaska State Fair in Palmer.

Another break toward Saturday was expected to give way to more rain possibly as soon as Sunday, Kochevar said.

The "very persistent and active pattern" of storm systems coming from the Sea of Japan and Aleutians included the remnants of Hurricane Hector, which moved through Hawaii a week and a half ago, he said.

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