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Rain Breaks Records, Fills Rivers

United States Society on Dams

Low pressure in the Gulf of Alaska has been spinning waves of moisture from the east over the Alaska Range into the interior. As of Tuesday Fairbanks had received 2.66 inches of rain so far this month, well above the normal of less than an inch. 

National Weather service meteorologist Luke Culver says most of the precipitation has fallen over the last several days.

"In Fairbanks itself, we got a little over 3.5" in the last four days, and we actually set a three-day rainfall record from June 19 to 21st. That broke the previous record by .4 inches. So, that's quite a bit.”

Culver says areas southeast of Fairbanks have seen even greater totals.

"Such as in the Salcha River basin, and out in Forty-Mile country that have exceeded 3-4, I have even seen spots that have seen five inches of rain.”

Culver says all the rain has swollen Interior rivers.

"The Tanana is still rising and it looks like it won't crest until Thursday evening, about four days after most of the rainfall. Meanwhile, it looks like the Salcha will crest Wednesday afternoon. Only about one or two days after most of  the rainfall occurred.”

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers is monitoring the water level on the Chena River. Army Corps Alaska District operations chief Julie Anderson says Tuesday river levels were below the threshold for operating the Moose Creek Dam at the Chena Flood Control Project in North Pole. Andersen says the Tanana Basin has received more rain than the Chena watershed.  

"And that may even cause water to be coming back in to the Flood Control Project, over the sill as well. The water is just seeking to fill in the low elevations and with the floodway being low, it may come back in. We might see water all the way to the Richardson Highway bridges.”

Anderson says June is early for such high water as the area normally does not experience this volume of rain until later in July or August.  The dam was operated twice this spring during break up.  ###  

Dan has been in public radio news in Alaska since 1993. He’s worked as a reporter, newscaster and talk show host at stations in McGrath, Valdez and Fairbanks. Dan’s experience includes coverage of a wide range of topics, from wolf control to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and dog mushing.