Seward flooding prompts emergency declaration, school closures
Seward's city manager issued an emergency declaration Tuesday, due to heavy rains that have left high water throughout town.
The flooding in Seward is a "significant event," according to Brenda Ahlberg with Kenai Peninsula Borough. There are at least two subdivisions cut off from the Seward Highway just north of town. Ahlberg says bridges and the solid waste treatment center are closed. The Seward Airport and parts of the Dieckgraeff Road are also closed due to high water.
As of Tuesday evening, Seward has seen nearly four and a half inches of rain in just over 36 hours, following heavy rain that saturated the area last week.
In a release Tuesday, the City of Seward urges people to avoid any flooded areas and be careful around heavy equipment. Seward area schools released early Tuesday and will have a 2 hour delayed start Wednesday. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District says if weather and road conditions warrant a full closure, an announcement will be made by 8 a.m.
Crews spent most of Tuesday trying to shore up the mouth of Seward's Lowell Creek against the flooding.
Impacted areas from flooding are:
- Lowell Creek Bridge & Waterfall – Closed to pedestrian traffic; limit vehicle traffic as crews from the Public Works Department work with local contractors to clear debris and remove gravel using heavy equipment and machinery.
- Dieckgraeff Road – Gravel portion of road closed to vehicle traffic; water over the road; borough crews are working with local contractors using heavy equipment and machinery.
- Mile 3.5 Seward Highway & Bikepath – Highway is open; use caution and limit speed; water over road.
- Mile 5 Seward Highway at Bear Creek Fire Station – Highway is open; use extreme caution and limit speed; deep water over road.
- Seward Airport – North runway is closed; deep standing water over most of the runway
The National Weather Service in Anchorage issued a Flood Advisory for the Seward area until 10:45 a.m. Wednesday.
“Just a lot of water -- all the creeks rivers are trying to top themselves off and we're trying to deal with it,” said Doug Schoessler, Seward's public works director.
The emergency declaration was needed, Scholesser said, after heavy rain left high water across the city.
“It’s crazy right now, this weekend, today, and it’s supposed to continue," Schloesser said. "We maybe get a break tomorrow, but you see all of the equipment moving; we got creeks flooding everywhere, we got the river gone, the airports covered. We have water over the highway and they even sent the kids home from school today just to also sure they could make it home.”
Crews are working around the clock to keep roads and bridges open like Lowell Creek Bridge, the only way in and out for people living in that area of town.
“Unfortunately on Lowell creek it also brings all of the gravel debris with it through the tunnel," Schloesser said. "And if we don’t clean it out of here, it buries this bridge and then starts flooding into the other buildings and wastewater lift station and the whole works.”
Trying to keep these roads is a problem for many crews in the area.
“Everything is so saturated the water has nowhere to go," Schloesser said. "At Dieckgraeff Road creek, the water just ripped it right out. There’s a lot of them out under water; a couple subdivisions are underwater and of course, the more it runs it damages the roadways.”
Schoessler says the best thing the residents can do is to stay out of the way of heavy equipment and stay off flooded roads.
The Resurrection River was seeing moderate flooding Tuesday morning as the water reached more than a foot above flood stage for the second time in three days.
Flooding is a serious weather hazard. According to the National Weather Service, it is the second highest weather-related cause of death over the past 30 years. More than half of those deaths are people drowning after driving vehicles into the flooded water. The second reason people drown during flooding is after walking into or near flooded water. It only takes rushing water that is 6 inches deep to knock over an adult, 12 inches to knock over a car. SUVs can withstand double that -- it would take 24 inches to knock one over. They remind people if you see a flooded roadway, "turn around don't drown."
The school district and Kenai Peninsula Borough will post the most updated official information on their social media sites and kpbsd.org. Follow coordinating agency alerts here.
Angela Krenzien and Cassie Schirm contributed information to this story.
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