The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Heidi Zemach
For The LOG 

Residents help one another, wonder why more wasn’t done

 

Heidi Zemach | For The LOG

Susie White stands on the levee Bob built and points to their livingroom, which was under water despite Bob’s best efforts at sandbagging.

Residents in affected areas responded to the downpour and flooding as best they could. They helped one another out as they tried to minimize flood damage to their own homes and back-yard businesses. Those living in Old Mill Subdivision or along Mile 3.5 of Seward Highway, and areas below Box Canyon, such as Old Exit Glacier and Exit Glacier roads in particular were im-pacted.

Susie White, who lives on Old Exit Glacier Road, got busy early Wednesday (Sept. 19) morning, throwing things rescued from her sunken living room up to the higher floors. Then she pro-ceeded to rescue inventory from the adjacent carpet store and the gun store that she and her husband Bob own. She worked for hours while husband Bob was outside behind their home house hauling sandbags, and such when it became obvious that the creek in his yard would breach the levee he had built between his, and Yvon and Janet von Driessche’s property. His guns were the last things Susie got to safety before the water hit.

“Then I heard the water — clunk, clunk, clunk— slamming our house,” Susie said, describing the sound of the huge rocks hurled against the wall of their sunken living room. “The little dog... you should have seen the look on his face,” she said. White grabbed her coat, grabbed the dog, and ran outside, screaming for Bob to move his van from the driveway so she could get her car out and into town for safety. After surviving three floods, even more devastating than this one would be to their property, it was with great reluctance that she agreed to drive home three days later to view the damage. The flood had ruined their furniture and living room carpet, and damaged their carpet store floor and drywall when a layer of mud and silt rushed in.

“This water situation sucks. I’m tired of it. Of worrying about when the next one is going to come,” White said.

Their hit was a double whammy, said Bob White, a member of the Seward Bear Creek Flood Service Board. It was not only caused both by the creek, or rather Salmon Creek that feeds into it, but by the Box Canyon levee failure. Area residents haven’t been allowed to remove gravel from the creeks without obtaining a permit, and paying unreasonable royalty fees to the state for the gravel, he said. Meanwhile the creek water is killing the trees in the stream and yard, and he had to fell nine of them so they wouldn’t come down during storms.

“The property: It’s been slaughtered,” said next door neighbor Yvon von Driessche.” Yvon and Janet’s buildings, including Le Barn Appetit Inn and Creperie, on Old Exit Glacier Road, survived the flooding intact, although water filled their crawl spaces. But the new home they are building across the road will have the highest foundation in the neighborhood, Yvon said.

The first floor and garage of Trevan and Michelle Walker’s family home on Wilma Avenue also filled with silty water, although the high school principal managed to hold off the onslaught for 18 hours. Walker knows of at least a couple more local educators whose homes were flooded in the area as well. But he wanted to stress the positive, “The outpouring of support and help we’re getting is overwhelming. The options are unlimited for labor, for housing, for childcare,” Walker said. Their generosity all went to prove his mantra, “There’s no place I’d rather be than Seward,” he said.

Before waters rushed in Wednesday, young musher Travis Beals trucked his kennel full of sled dogs over to famed musher Dan Seavey, and Danny Seavey’s home, to be looked after on higher ground, as his own home became flooded. Soon afterward, the Seaveys’ clan of 10 found themselves stranded in their homes by rushing water. The dogs were all fine, but Danny Seavey’s house, the Iditaride’s seven cabins, shop and office buildings were hit hard in the flood. They also were without power for several days. The elder Seavey was angry with the borough after days of what he felt was inattention by borough crews to the plight of the people living in the Exit Glacier area. But most of all, he was peeved because despite four or five “100-year floods” since he and Shirley moved to Seward in 1965, no more permanent dike had been installed at Box Canyon. “It’s a big loss of private property due to poor public planning,” he said. “Every morsel of material up there was put there by water… then it all washes away, and we’re back what we started!”

Bob Reisner, who lives just past the Pit Bar, off the Seward Highway, discovered that the bottom half of his land was coated in mud. A couple of inches of silt made it inside and about six inches immediately outside. In a survey of his property, he found the carcasses of a moose calf, four ducks and six squirrels. Days after the flood hit, Reisner was still trying to create a larger embankment outdoors to protect his family, his fiancé Hilda, and his grandchildren who were moving in. The average cleanup costs from similar floods to date have been about $12,000, Reisner said, but this one, he feels, was even more damaging to everyone in town and out.

“Everybody warned everybody at the state level about it, but no one gave a tinker’s damn about our situation,” Reisner said. Reisner, who is running for a seat on the flood board, says about a dozen families he knows of have moved away from the Seward area since the 2006 and 2009 floods, and he would bet that another dozen will be moving away after this one. Installing larger culverts (such as the two installed beneath Salmon Creek Road) is not an answer, he said. Seward really needs stronger, more protective levees installed, and for the state to give residents the ability to dredge and shore up stream and creek beds that continually fill up with silt.

Heidi Zemach | For The LOG

Becky Dunn’s Knots So Fast Feedstore, just off the Seward Highway, was surrounded by water that also flowed across the highway.

The foundation of Becky Dunn’s Knots so Fast Feed store at Mile 3.5 Seward Highway was damaged, her building was warped, and some of the electrical wires running beneath the store were cut and exposed, she said. Luckily, the store’s inventory was high enough above the water line that it wasn’t affected, and Dunn plans to reopen for business in the days ahead. Bad though her experience was, including a trip to the hospital when she became sick in the flooding aftermath, Dunn was pleased at all the offers of help she received from friends and neighbors, and caring volunteers. Someone bought her a new cell phone charger, and another helped her take pictures as her own camera was still inside the store. In emergencies, one can tell who your real friends are, she said.

Eadsville, the neighborhood of modular homes and RVs on Salmon Creek Road, off Nash Road, was under water several feet deep, and some vehicles’ bodies were only half visible. John Wood, whose family lives at Eadsville and near the creek behind Salmon Creek road, came around Sunday as his neighbors worked their generators and waited for the waters to subside. Wood and the others hoped to put some kind of rip rap between them and the creek before the next storm arrived. All of their crawl spaces below the homes were filled with silt and water, but everyone was alright, he said. They’ve all been through it before he said although this flood was definitely worse than ’06. It’s going to take a lot of cleanup, he said. “Heck, my grandpa’s still cleaning up the silt in his workshop from six years ago.”

 

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