September 26, 2012 | Vol. 24 Edition 39

Record rains pummeled Valdez - again

High waters kept Valdez hopping

Just as Valdez residents and city officials began to relax – it appeared that the record rainfall that had plagued the town for days was easing up – the Valdez Glacier Stream changed course Sunday, eating a large swath out of the Dump Road.

Photo courtesy City of Valdez
The glacier stream changed course Sunday and began to cut into a large swath of the Dump Road. The erosion came on the heels of record rains in recent days and a number of resultant incidents of localized flooding and mudslides.

“The situation on Dump Road has stabilized. Water levels are down significantly and the flow has changed direction again and is now less of a threat,” John Hozey, city manager, said in an email Monday. “Rock hauling operations continued until about 9 p.m. Sunday evening. The road remains closed to the public and we will begin evaluating reconstruction options early this week.”

Many residents and city workers had already spent about 10 days sandbagging, clearing mudslides and nervously watching rising waters throughout the Valdez area.

“They’re continuing to work on that road,” Sheri Pierce, city clerk, said in an interview Monday. “Everything else, I think, is pretty much stabilized.”

As of Monday, the National Weather Service reports that Valdez has received 22.97 inches of rain, a good 13.38 higher than average for the same time period in September.

“It was an interesting 10 days for northeast Prince William Sound as two storm systems, laden with tropical moisture, took aim at the area,” the weather service said in a public statement. “The first storm moved through the Valdez area Friday,” September 14 through Monday, Sept. 17.

That system dropped 5.45 inches of rain. The second series of storms last week dropped even more. The town received 8.74 inches of rain between Wednesday and Friday of last week, then another 1.37 inches over the weekend.

Some homes along the Richardson Highway in the 10 Mile area received minor flooding that required sandbagging, while a number of mudslides fell along the highway, including spots in Keystone Canyon and at the entrance to the Salmonberry Ski Hill.

The Alaska Dept. of Transportation closed the Richardson Highway at Keystone Canyon Friday, citing high water on the Lowe River that was threatening bridges as the cause.

Torrents of water from behind the city fire station at 10 Mile spilled onto the highway, causing a single lane closure for much of the day.

Closer to town, Mineral Creek rose to uncomfortable levels and was closely monitored by the city and nervous residents in the area.

“It’s still really high but it’s not as threatening as it was,” Pierce said Monday. “Everything seems to be going down, we’re not in alarm mode.”

As the rains eased as the week progressed, there was still little in the way of sunshine. Tuesday’s forecast by the weather service called for rain through the week.

“I don’t see any sun in our future,” Pierce said.

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