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Continued Rain May Cause More Flooding

Rain falling across the central and eastern interior has drawn concerns that rivers still running high from heavy precipitation last week, could result in more flooding.

Flood watches are in effect for the Fairbanks, Delta Junction, Tok and Eagle areas. They’re due to a low pressure system that National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Hancock describes as similar  to the one that dropped 2 to 5 inches in the central and eastern interior last week.  The event resulted in some area rivers overflowing their banks, and localized flooding, and Hancock anticipates more trouble.

"We certainly do expect substantial rises on the rivers as a result of the rainfall," he said.

Between one and three inches of rain is forecast through Thursday in the Salcha, Goodpaster and Chena River Basins, as well as along the Alaska Range, from Denali Park to the Tok Cutoff.  Hancock says this week's rain should cause a more immediate rise in water levels.

"Last week we had a deficit of moisture in the soil. We had been dry for quite a while. That's certainly no longer the case," he said.

The Chena Flood Control Project in North Pole was operated for the first time since 2008 over the weekend.  Gates on the Moose Creek Dam were lowered between early Saturday and early Monday, skimming water into a flood way to protect the communities of North Pole and Fairbanks.

Flood Control Project Manager Tim Feavel says its hard to say if that will be necessary again. He says a large number of trees caught during operation of the dam prompted a 24 hour a day clearing operation.

"We mobilize our 90-ton P&H crane with a clamshell bucket on the front of it and take it down there and stage it over the river and pull material out from upstream, lift that up and then they place that right into side-dump tractor trailer rigs that move the debris over on to about a 10 acre area," he said.

Feavel says the debris removal has taken on urgency with a second rain event bearing down.

"It's a real dangerous operation with logs coming out of the river like that and swinging them over and putting them into a truck. We really have our A-game going and we're watching all the time to make sure no one gets hurt."

Feavel says trees pulled from the river will be dried for a month, and then made available to the public for firewood.

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.