Homer Alaska - News

Sunshine offers temporary break in storms, more rain on the way

By McKibben Jackinsky

Staff writer

A flooding Stariski Creek damaged abutments to a bridge on Tall Tree Avenue, north of Anchor Point, and washed away a section of the road between the Sterling Highway and the bridge.

Photo by McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

After days of heavy rain and strong winds, southern peninsula residents put Friday's sunshine to good use by repairing and assessing storm damage.

On Tall Tree Avenue, north of Anchor Point, residents and Conam construction crews joined forces, working Thursday and Friday to strengthen a bridge spanning the floodwaters of Stariski Creek.

"The water undermined the bridge, pulled material out from the abutments and left a big gaping hole in there," said Tall Tree resident and heavy equipment operator John Simmons. "It was a dangerous situation."

The flooding river also washed out Tall Tree Avenue between the Sterling Highway and the bridge.

"But the worst of it was the bridge," said Simmons, who estimated approximately 50 people living on the far side of the creek had been stranded until repairs were made and the road reopened.

Downstream, where the Sterling Highway crosses Stariski Creek, portions of a walkway and stairs from a parking area to the creek were submerged by the floodwater.

The rising waters of the Anchor River swept large cottonwood trees into the river currents. The water level on Thursday had risen nearly to the level of campgrounds along the lower sections of the river. In Ninilchik, portions of the alder-covered bluff above the community's boat harbor sloughed across an access road and into the river.

The Friday sunshine gave hope to residents along Milo Fritz Avenue in Anchor Point, who were worried about their homes flooding.

"It looks like the Milo Fritz area is actually holding a lot of water," said Debbie Carpenter of the Anchor Point Senior Center. "People were worried about water coming into their homes, but it's looking good today. We're hoping some of this will sink into the ground and give us a little leverage for the next few days, with wind and more storms coming tomorrow."

Brenda Ahlberg, information officer for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management, said that office had received calls from the Milo Fritz area about minor flooding and also had heard of the road and bridge damage along Tall Tree, as well as other storm-caused damage happening throughout the borough.

"We are trying to make people aware that folks with wells and septic systems that may be inundated with flooding need to minimize the use of sewers and boil their water, particularly if it's discolored," said Ahlberg.

The EOM's website provides a link to "Flood Preparation and Recovery for Drinking Water Systems," an Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation booklet with instructions for before and after flooding care of drinking water, septic systems, wastewater, solid waste disposal, fuel tanks and food.

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, has been in contact with DEC to see about the possibility of additional staff to help homeowners investigate the safety of wells and septic systems, said Seaton's assistant, Louie Flora.

"My understanding is that there are staff in Soldotna that can offer technical help, but to get that additional help, it needs a disaster declaration from the borough that goes to the state and then is approved by the governor to allow funding," said Flora.

With more storms on the way, Ahblerg said, "We're really trying to get folks to put inside or tie down large things, especially in the river areas to limit stuff going down our rivers and creeks and keep the hazards down."

The forecast provided by the National Weather Service at 11 a.m. Friday called for more rain likely for the coming week.

"The point to make is that we're wanting folks to be proactive," said Ahlberg. "We have several areas that haven't topped yet. There's water still coming down," she said.

Flooding in the Seward area caused the relocation of the Region III Cross Country Running Championships scheduled to be held in Seward on Saturday. The city of Seward declared a state of emergency on Wednesday. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District announced the event, with runners from 16 schools to compete, has been relocated to Skyview High School's Tsalteshi Trails Wolverine Trailhead. Start time is 1 p.m. Saturday. Runners must compete in order to qualify for the Alaska State Region III Cross Country Running Championships to be held at Bartlett High School in Anchorage Sept. 29.

For more information:

n KPB Office of Emergency Management: (907) 714-2482 or www2.borough.kenai.ak.us/emergency/default.ht;

n Road conditions, Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities: 511.alaska.gov.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.