Flood watch issued for Kenai River

A flood watch has been announced for a portion of the Kenai River after water from a glacial dam release set off a chain reaction of rising water levels.

The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for the Kenai River from Kenai Lake to the Russian River around 1:35 p.m. Wednesday. The watch is in effect “from Thursday evening through late Friday night,” the Weather Service’s release states.

“What you see here is identifying the fact that there is a little bit of high water up there,” said Scott Walden, emergency management coordinator for the Kenai Peninsula Borough. “If (people) have things close to the shoreline, it would be a good idea to bring them back.”

When the natural glacial dam at Snow Glacier Dammed Lake near Seward began releasing last weekend, as it does every two years or so in the fall, water levels began rising in both the Snow and Kenai rivers, which are connected. Personnel at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, are keeping a close eye on the water levels and don’t expect them to get out of hand, said Senior Hydrologist Ted Moran.

As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, the stretch of the Kenai River under a flood watch had risen to over 11 feet. Water there would need to rise above 13 feet to enter a flood stage, Moran said.

“It’s a little uncertain about where this thing is going to go,” Moran said of the dam release. “When we’re really certain, we put out an advisory. We’re going to get a better idea of what’s going to actually end up tomorrow (Thursday).”

Moran will use the water levels closer to the glacial dam to predict what will happen in the Kenai River. Should the water levels in the Snow River spike, it could mean more rising action will be seen in the Kenai River near Cooper Landing. There is little chance the rising water in the Kenai River will reach a flood state, Moran said.

In the event that water in the Kenai River rises past 13 feet, its status would be changed to a flood advisory, which Moran said is an indicator of minor, “nuisance” flooding. A flood stage that indicates potential danger and the need for evacuation is a flood warning, Moran said.

For now, Moran echoed Walden’s warning and said pulling belongings away from the shoreline is a good idea. It will also be important for fishermen to watch out for debris floating down the section of the Kenai River between Kenai Lake and the Russian River, he said. That particular section of river is generally highly populated with people fishing for trout at this time of year, Walden said.

For updated flood information and hydrographs charting water levels of rivers on the Kenai Peninsula, visit aprfc.arh.noaa.gov.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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