Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Valdez, No road in or out.

Valdez mayor declares state of emergency

Tuesday, October 10, 2006 - by Sean Doogan

Valdez, Alaska - Flooding was not confined to the Seward area today in Alaska. In Valdez, officials have also declared a state of emergency. There, a broken levee and damaged bridges have work crews busy tonight.

The American Red Cross is working overtime as they deal with the effects of a warm, rainy October across Southcentral Alaska.

Flooding is common in areas north of town, and near the trans-Alaska oil pipeline terminal, which is managed by Alyeska Pipeline Services Co. But the biggest damage is being done to area roads, bridges and levees.

Heavy rains and warm temperatures are beginning to take their toll on Valdez as the melt-off and rains have swollen the Lowe River, causing a levee to break. Other area streams and creeks are flooding the town as well.

"About 200 people live in that area [near Lowe River] so those folks have been asked to evacuate and Red Cross volunteers have set up a shelter at the Middle school to provide a safe place for those folks to be," said Kelly Hurd (below left), community relations manager for the American Red Cross of Alaska.

Roadways are taking a beating as well.

"Closed the Richardson Highway in several places, which is our main road our of town … damaged critical bridge in Keystone Canyon just east of the city that could cut off our access for several weeks," said Valdez city manager John Hozey.

The Keystone Canyon bridge was moved off of its support pillars by a few feet today, making the road impassable. Other bridges too have been damaged, leaving Valdez cut off from Alaska’s highway system.

City officials, however, say things are not as bad as they could be. The water, for the most part, is just an inconvenience for now, they said.

"Mostly running through yards, taking out some out buildings … It's washing out some roads, but no significant damage yet," Hozey said.

The inconveniences could keep work crews busy for weeks.

The American Red Cross of Alaska has set up an emergency shelter at the Valdez Middle School, but the Richardson Highway has been closed in several areas between mile 70 and Valdez.

That is, of course, the only road into or out of Valdez.

The Alaska marine ferry system has increased its schedule to get supplies into and out of Valdez and is now planning one arrival and departure a day there. Local air carriers like Era Aviation have increased their flight schedules to accommodate the road closures.

~I'll update with pictures soon. Pictures here http://www.ktuu.com/cms/anmviewer.asp?a=6752&print=yes with this story.

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