Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Flood Warnings Hit Salcha
A week of heavy rains has triggered minor flooding on the Salcha River, along with high water levels on the Chena and Tanana rivers.
FAIRBANKS — A week of heavy rains has triggered minor flooding on the Salcha River, along with high water levels on the Chena and Tanana rivers.
The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory on Tuesday afternoon from mile 50 on the lower Salcha to the Tanana River.
Water spilling out of the riverbank has filled the Salcha River Campground and flooded some yards but was expected to spare houses and roads in the area.
Water levels on the Salcha were expected to crest at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Richardson Highway bridge, with the river returning to its banks by this morning.
The advisory also warned that the Tanana River is causing high water levels at Piledriver Slough and in parts of the Rosie Creek area. No significant flooding is expected, but residents are being warned to move their belongings out of low areas and old sloughs.
The warnings come after a week of heavy rain in the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Only about an inch of rain was recorded at Fairbanks International Airport, but some outlying areas were drenched with as much as 3.5 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service.
Those steady rains have caused rivers and streams to rise close to their capacity, but not enough water is expected to trigger flood-control measures on the Chena River.
John Schaake, who manages the Chena Flood Control Project for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said no intervention should be needed to divert water out of the Chena. The Moose Creek Flood Control Dam is used to protect Fairbanks from flooding when water levels become dangerously high.
River levels on the Chena at 8 a.m. Tuesday were at 5,900 cubic feet per second, and were projected to crest at about 7,000 cfs at 3 a.m. today. The Moose Creek Flood Control Dam, which limits water flow during flood threats, isn’t activated until river levels reach 8,300 cfs, Schaake said.
The previous peak water levels of the summer occurred about two weeks ago, when the Chena crested at 5,500 cfs.
While levels haven’t been high enough for rivers to breach their banks, the extra water is resulting in a growing pile of debris at the dam site. Schaake said downed trees and debris are being swept up by the high rivers, creating a pileup that they’ll begin removing on Wednesday.
If additional rains arrive in the days ahead, Schaake said, precipitation could still push water levels toward flood stages. Based on current projections, the main channels are expected to remain below those levels, he said.
“There’s no doubt that it helps when you get a little break from the rain,” he said.
National Weather Service forecasts for the Tanana Valley call for isolated showers and thunderstorms each day through Monday, but no steady rains in the days ahead.
Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518.