Flood forces Kenai residents to evacuate homes

Peninsula rivers reach highest level in three decades

Posted: Friday, October 25, 2002

ANCHORAGE - Several roads were closed, bridges were washed out and people were evacuated from their homes on the Kenai Peninsula on Thursday after heavy rainfall caused major flooding and raised rivers to their highest levels in 30 years.

Homer, 230 miles south of Anchorage, was isolated by mudslides caused by nearly two days of torrential rains.

Meteorologists said more than 4 inches of rain fell over the last day and a half in Seward, on the peninsula's east side. Nearly 3.7 inches fell during the same period in Homer, at the peninsula's southern tip.

The most serious flood damage was along the Sterling Highway leading to Homer on the peninsula's west side, said state transportation spokesman Murph O'Brien.

"We're mobilizing to get a temporary bridge up," O'Brien told the Anchorage Daily News.

Rain-swollen creeks north of Homer washed out bridges and forced the evacuation of residents in Anchor Point, 10 miles north, authorities said.

Several bridges on the Sterling Highway, which links Anchorage to Homer, were washed out. Officials said many southern peninsula roads were unsafe to travel because of flooding.

Floods also have damaged the Russian Village Road off the Sterling, which leads to the inland village of Nikolaevsk, a community of about 350, said O'Brien.

For the time being, those needing to get in and out of Homer would have to rely on air transport, he added.

On the peninsula's east side, the Resurrection River north of Seward rose nearly 6 feet Tuesday night before cresting at 9 a.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. Nearby Salmon Creek also went over its banks.

A dispatcher at the Seward Police Department said one man had to be rescued from his home near Salmon Creek.

The city of Seward was in "pretty good shape, but the outlying areas are experiencing severe flooding," said city clerk Jean Lewis.

The rains caused the north fork of the Anchor River, just north of Seward, to back up and overload culverts beneath the highway, said Homer police dispatcher Greg McCullough.

Seward officials were asking residents of one subdivision to evacuate voluntarily, KTUU-TV reported. Some residents were removing furniture from their homes as a precaution.

An emergency operation center was set up in Seward, and the American Red Cross set up a shelter at a school gym.

The Seward Highway, which links Anchorage and Seward, remained open. But drivers were cautioned to watch for falling trees and debris.

State transportation spokes-man O'Brien said it would take at least 48 hours from the time the rain stops before the broken bridges can be repaired.

"We heard it could be wet until Saturday," he said.

Damage was expected to reach into the millions of dollars, he said.

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