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Rain continues to pelt Juneau

Posted: Tuesday, November 22, 2005

As the rain continued Monday afternoon, Bret Schmiege was looking at "several tons of mud and several tons of tree debris" where he used to sleep in his Nelson Street home.

"It completely destroyed the master bedroom," he said from his Starr Hill house, down the hillside from the Mount Roberts Trail. The mudslide would have been fatal if anyone had been in the bedroom when the tree came crashing through at 9:40 p.m. Friday, he added.

Fortunately, Schmiege was in the living room, and his wife, Emily Kane, was with their 7-year-old daughter, Katherine Kane, in the girl's bedroom, he said.

At the Juneau International Airport, where official readings are taken, more than 2 additional inches of rain fell Monday after Friday's official 2.51-inch deluge, which brought an old tree through Schmiege's home. Juneau Street Superintendent Mike Scott said his crews were out in force clearing culverts of debris.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service issued flood warnings for Montana and Jordan creeks in the Mendenhall Valley, according to meteorologist Brian Bezenek.

Both were near the flood stage, he said Monday afternoon. Montana Creek, measured at 15 feet, was only 2 feet away from flood stage, he said.

"We've had so much rainfall that the ground is saturated," said Kimberly Vaughan, a hydrometeorological technician for the National Weather Service. "We've come to the point where it isn't draining off."

The forecast calls for steady rain to continue through the day before tapering off.

From his home, with a view of the lights of downtown Juneau, Schmiege said he hoped it would end soon.

"We'll slowly dig out," he said.

He has been living in the house for 20 years, and the master bedroom was in an addition built about 12 or 13 years ago, he added. "The addition won't be rebuilt."

Living at the house next door, Matt Volz, a reporter for The Associated Press, said the damage was limited to Schmiege's house at the end of the street.

"The bad news is that insurance isn't going to pay for it," Schmiege said. He understands his policy doesn't cover "earth movement."

He said he hadn't seen anything like the mudslide that crashed through his home Friday. Around 1997, he recalled, there was a minor mudslide, but the worst it did was uproot the tree that eventually came all the way down the hill Friday.

Scott said on Monday that flooding has not been a problem through most of Juneau, except for the valley, where rising creeks could change that. No roads were closed, he said.

The big problem was keeping culverts clear, Scott said. On Behrends Avenue, above Glacier Avenue at the other end of the downtown area from Nelson Street, residents were out Friday night with shovels helping to keep the culverts clear, Scott said.

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities crews continued to clean up after mudslides on Glacier Highway behind Fred Meyer.

Scott suggested that if people see culverts or drains clogging up, doing a little bit to keep them clear will help protect their property. City street crews, he said, "cannot be everywhere at once."

Vaughan said that if it were about 20 degrees cooler, people would probably be talking about feet of snow instead of inches of rain. But as temperatures downtown were hovering around 50 degrees, she said it is the warm air bringing in so much moisture.

"We're getting warm, moist air from the North Pacific," she said. "It hasn't had a chance to modify."

By Friday, things should be back to what Juneau residents are used to this time of year, she said. That means some snow in the morning turning to rain later in the day.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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