State, borough crews battle local flooding
Heavy rains that fell on a record December snowfall Tuesday swamped streets and roads and swelled a creek that flooded a Beach Road home.
“(Water) was coming in the side door and going out the front door” at the home of Dick and Carol Flegel, said Haines fire chief Scott Bradford.
In a wind-driven, slushy downpour Tuesday afternoon, state road crew foreman Matt Boron used a metal detector to locate a drain buried below inches of ice and snow at Portage Street and Beach Road, while an equipment operator used a plow to excavate it.
Boron said new curbing there, and along Front Street and Old Haines Highway, was effectively holding water in the roadway that previously ran off the surface and into ditches. “We’ve always had (flooding) issues here. Now it’s about three times as much.”
Haines Borough Public Facilities Director Carlos Jimenez said at least 10 storm drains were plugged around town and crews worked up to 14 hours Tuesday, finding and opening them. Flooding was particularly bad in low-lying areas along Old Haines Highway and at Fort Seward, but there were problems in other neighborhoods as well. “It was an areawide issue.”
Jimenez said there were no immediately apparent issues on the Mount Ripinsky hillside, where a similar rainstorm on heavy snows in late 2011 caused the mountain to “slump,” cleaving Lutak Road and damaging a home near Front Street.
The borough was advised to make more than $1.6 million in hillside drainage improvements to address runoff issues in hillside subdivisions. Jimenez said the borough cleared and re-established ditches on the upper hillside last summer.
“We’ve got our fingers crossed that some of the work helped,” Jimenez said.
Flows into the borough’s sewage treatment plant about tripled Tuesday, due to infiltration from sources like manholes. “We probably had a million gallons in the last 24 hours... This always (occurs) when water is on the surface of the roads,” said Bradford, superintendent of the borough’s water and sewer department.
Resident Jack Smith alerted the borough to problems at the Flegels’ house, when he saw water running down the home’s driveway. The Flegels weren’t home. “It flooded the lower portion of his house. Had it not been for what the guys did, it could have been a lot worse,” said friend Jim Studley.
Studley said a plugged state culvert backed up the creek, which jumped its banks and ran into the home, as well as around an apartment building next door. “The (creek) was going everywhere, which in retrospect may have been a good thing. If it was all heading for the house, there might have been a lot more damage.”
Flegel has previously used sandbags and planking to contain the stream, which drains a large section of Portage Cove hillside.
Studley said volunteers re-established the stream’s route by hand-digging snow and slush from it. Water in the creek reached a depth of about four feet, he said.