As time flows by ...

A look back at how Mendenhall Lake and River rose beyond their flood stages Wednesday and Thursday, and how they began the return to the confinement of their banks

Noon Wednesday: The National Weather Service’s Juneau office issued a statement noticing the rising water levels in Mendenhall Lake and River.


6:01 p.m. Wednesday: The NWS issues a flood advisory for Mendenhall Lake and River. The advisory blamed “a possible glacial dammed lake release” as the reason for the coming flood. At that point, the water was rising 1-2 inches an hour, pushing the level of Mendenhall Lake to 7.93 feet and that of Mendenhall River to 10.25 feet.

10:37 p.m. Wednesday: Water has filled the areas and ditches up to the road between Skaters Cabin Road and the West Glacier Trailhead, the NWS reports.

2:41 a.m. Thursday: The NWS upgrades its flood advisory to a flood warning. By then, water levels in both the lake and river had risen beyond their minor flood stages.

5:47 a.m. Thursday: Levels on both bodies of water are approaching moderate flood stage, the NWS reports. The source of the water release was still unknown at that point.

• 9:50 a.m. Thursday: U.S. Forest Service rangers close the Mendenhall Campground and the road leading to the West Glacier Trailhead. A glacial lake outburst is pinpointed as the cause of the flooding.

• 10:20 a.m. Thursday: A caller to the Empire says he had cut the power to the View Drive residence he was in and was leaving the area. The NWS reported water was rising “at a significant rate.”

• 11:15 a.m. Thursday: The Mendenhall River crests at 13.07 feet, more than 1 1/2 feet above its flood stage, the NWS reports.

• 11:27 a.m. Thursday: Officials from the City and Borough of Juneau, the Alaska State Troopers and the U.S. Forest Service were flying over Mendenhall Glacier in an attempt to determine which glacial lake had burst. There was standing water on View Drive, and that area was under a “soft closure,” which encouraged residents to leave the area.

“I’ve talked to people who say they’ve never seen river levels this high,” said Tom Mattice, the city’s emergency coordinator, at the time. “And I’ve talked to others who say they haven’t seen it this high in 30 years.”

• Noon Thursday: Mendenhall Lake crests at 10.93 feet, nearly 2 feet above its flood stage. The city closes Kaxdigoowu Heen Dei, otherwise known as Brotherhood Bridge Trail, between Glacier Highway and River Road.

• 1:24 p.m. Thursday: City officials begin driving through neighborhoods along the Mendenhall River to see if flooding had spread. There was no indication that it had.

• 1:30 p.m. Thursday: Mendenhall River is down to 12.90 feet.

• 1:53 p.m. Thursday: Water at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center had begun to recede, according to Ron Marvin, manager of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. The water had dropped about an inch from its highest level by then, he said.

• 2:15 p.m. Thursday: Mendenhall Lake is down to 10.47 feet.

• 4:09 p.m. Thursday: The city reopens View Drive. It had closed the road earlier in the day.

• 5 p.m. Thursday: Water levels are receding very quickly, and should be back below flood stage levels in three hours, according to the NWS.

Glacial lake drain leaves Mendenhall River area soggy
Unusual glacial drain floods View Drive
Photo: A wet walk


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