Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 4:45 PM on Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Anchor Point neighborhoods struggle to dry out; borough seeking estimates of damage

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer


Photographer: McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

A flooding Stariski Creek rises above stairs and a walkway leading to the creek from a roadside parking area on Sept. 20.

It's been three years since Mike Eskelson bought his two-story Anchor Point house on Laida Street. This week, Eskelson has been fighting nonstop to keep floodwaters from claiming what was once his home.

On Sept. 19, Eskelson, who now lives in Sutton, got a call from the people renting the Anchor Point house, letting him know that heavy rains were causing it to flood.

"I couldn't get down here until Thursday afternoon, so my brother-in-law shoveled a dike to keep it from coming into my yard," said Eskelson.

The effort wasn't enough to hold back the water, however. By the time Eskelson arrived, his renters had moved out and the water level in the daylight basement had risen to three feet. It had soaked up carpeting and the lower half of sheetrocked walls. It was halfway up appliances in the laundry room, well above the top of the bathtub and had submerged the Toyostove.

Eskelson began running a pump to remove the water, but with the ground supersaturated, he was able to make little progress. In fact, when he stopped for a brief time to have coffee with his mother, the water level immediately began rising.

Ironically, previous owners of the house went through a similar scenario during previous flooding and put FEMA, Federal Emergency Management Agency, funding they received to good use to make the house "flood proof."

Eskelson has been hard at work since his arrival last week. By running the pump continuously, he's kept the water in the basement at a six-inch level. He's torn out shelving, ripped out carpets and hauled them to the Anchor Point waste transfer site. He is having the stove examined to see if there's any chance it's salvageable. He knows sheetrock will have to be removed and wiring replaced and even then wonders if he can save the house.

"I can't sell it. I can't rent it, but you can be sure the bank wants their money," said Eskelson.

He isn't the only one in his neighborhood hurt by the non-stop storms that continue causing damage throughout Southcentral Alaska.

"My next door neighbor has almost 24 inches of water in his crawl space," he said.

On the opposite side of Eskelson is Jeff Hammond. With an eye toward possible flooding, Hammond chose the site on which he built his house because it is higher in elevation than the area around it. He also built it above ground level.

"But I can't flush my toilet," he said. Heavy rains have flooded his septic system.

On a four-wheel tour of the neighborhood, Floyd Worley, who has lived in the area for 10 years and currently has two pumps running in his basement to try and reduce the accumulated water, identified other residences he knew that were flooded.

All three men agreed the problem stems from poor drainage in the area. Some of it is due to the type of ground. Some of it they blamed on a lack of culverts beneath subdivision and borough streets, as well as construction that has blocked the area's natural drainage.

As if on cue, a flatbed truck arrived, carrying two culverts and heavy equipment to install the culverts beneath a submerged section of Granross Avenue. The driver said the Kenai Peninsula Borough ordered the work.

Responding to requests for aid from the Mat-Su and Kenai Peninsula Borough. Gov. Sean Parnell declared a state disaster on Sept. 21.

"While the full extent of damage remains unknown, it is apparent that the high winds and severe flooding will leave communities in need of assistance to recover," said Parnell.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has issued an advisory for peninsula property owners near flooding areas: Flooded wells may be contaminated with bacteria or other microorganisms that can cause illness. People with onsite wells on flooded property should boil water for drinking, cooking, handwashing or dishwashing. Boil filtered and settled water vigorously for two minutes. After flooding has subsided, wells and water systems should be disinfected with chlorine and thoroughly flushed, and then tested by a certified laboratory to guarantee the water is safe to drink.

A press release issued by the KPB Office of Emergency Management late Tuesday afternoon the process to obtain a state or federal disaster declaration required an estimate of the dollar loses from flooding.

"If you have damages related to this event, you are strongly encouraged to complete the online assessment form," said Brenda Ahlberg, OEM information officer. "Visit www.borough.kenai.ak.us/emergency to describe the damages and expenses incurred."

Borough, state and federal personnel will be visiting affected community also to quantify damages once the floodwaters recede. Property owners do not need to be present when the teams arrive onsite.

If an emergency disaster declaration is made by the state or FEMA, it will be posted on the borough's website and Facebook page, and include information on types of assistance available and how to apply.

"The borough is real busy in Seward. They have their hands full there," said Mako Haggerty, who represents the southern peninsula on the borough assembly. "We're real lucky to have them paying attention to the issues in Anchor Point."

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, said the governor's proclamation makes it possible for state agencies to help residents assess their wells and septic systems.

"But I don't know anything that will cure it until the water goes down," said Seaton. "It's a tough situation. There are drainage problems that will have to be addressed in the future. ... There's going to be a lot of impacts here over a long period of time."

That is little comfort for Eskelson.

"What am I going to do?" he asked, standing in his flooded basement. "I've lost everything."

The National Weather Service said on Wednesday that a flood warning remains in effect for Kenai River from Kenai Lake to the mouth of the river until 5 p.m. today. The NWS forecast included a chance of rain through Saturday, a possible break on Sunday and more rain through next week.

Anyone needing non-emergency assistance or the latest information can contact the KPB Office of Emergency Management at (907) 714-2484. To register a phone to receive emergency messages from the borough, visit www.borough.kenai.ak.us/emergency. For other flood information, visit the Kenai Peninsula Borough Facebook page.

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