Southcentral Alaska braces for heavy rains, rising water levels

A fast-moving storm is set to move through the Copper River Basin, Mat-Su, Anchorage and the Northern Kenai Peninsula in the evening of Thursday, 6/30/16. (Image courtesy National Weather Service)
A fast-moving storm is set to move through the Copper River Basin, Mat-Su, Anchorage and the Northern Kenai Peninsula in the evening of Thursday, 6/30/16. (Image courtesy National Weather Service)

A fast-moving storm is set to hit a wide swath of Southcentral Alaska starting Thursday evening.

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It’s expected to start in the Copper River Basin and spread through the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, Anchorage and the northern Kenai Peninsula.

Andy Dixon, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service, says the western Copper River Basin and parts of the Susitna Valley will be hit the hardest.

“Basically Glenallen over to Sutton, Eureka, Chickaloon, that area will see the heaviest rainfall,” he said. “The people driving along the Denali Highway are, any streams you’re passing by you’re gonna notice that the water levels are going up quite a bit.”

Dixon says an inch and a half of rain could fall in those areas. In the Anchorage area, he says between half an inch to an inch are in the forecast. Further south, along the northern Kenai Peninsula, a half inch or less is expected.

The storm will first hit the Copper River Basin Thursday evening, then Dixon says it will spread into the Susitna Valley, Anchorage and the northern Kenai Peninsula.

“And then the whole thing, just like it starts from east and moves to the west, it’s also gonna end first in the east,” Dixon said. “And so that’s gonna happen [Friday] morning, and I would say by midday to early afternoon [Friday] probably the Anchorage area will see the steady rainfall come to an end.”

The main concern for residents in the affected areas, Dixon says, is water pooling on roadways and a significant rise in water levels.

“We’re not expecting any flooding at this time, but we do want to get the word out to people that if you have property or interests in or along the river, definitely be prepared for the water to come up in a fairly rapid fashion – not in a flash flood-type fashion, but in a pretty quick fashion associated with heavy rain,” Dixon said.

Dixon says water levels in Anchorage and the Mat-Su are currently on the lower end and expected to rise. And portions of the Kenai River, which is running high, might also see a slight uptick.