- Associated Press - Thursday, July 10, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The National Weather Service on Thursday warned of fast-rising water levels on Mendenhall Lake and Mendenhall River that could leave some areas under several feet of water by late Friday.

A flood warning was issued through Saturday night because of the release of water from the glacially dammed lake, a glacial outburst also known as a jokulhlaup (YO’-kuh-lup). Water levels were expected to rise quickly and to fall quickly assuming there is nothing like a sudden heavy rain, with levels below flood stage by Saturday evening.

Record levels of 11.6 feet were forecast for Mendenhall Lake, almost 2 feet above moderate flood stage, and 14.6 feet for Mendenhall River by late Friday night, meteorologist Robert Tschantz said. The current records are 13.75 feet for the river and 11.18 feet for the lake.

“This is going to be a pretty significant event,” he said.

Tschantz said View Drive, a small residential area, becomes impassable when the river hits 13 feet. At 12.5 feet on the river, one could see 1 ½ feet of water in garages and about 3 feet of water in yards, he said.

“There’s going to be a substantial amount of water in people’s houses on View Drive,” Tschantz said.

At the level forecast, parts of area campgrounds also could be several feet underwater, he said.

Tom Mattice, emergency programs manager for the City and Borough of Juneau, said most of the residents in that area are aware of that situation and have dealt with it over the last few years. In 2011, flooding closed spur roads and got into garages.

At some point, traffic to the area could be blocked off and electrical power cut, Mattice said. There aren’t forced evacuations, he said.

Given the forecast water levels, authorities were concerned about areas that hadn’t been affected before, Mattice said. Residents should remember the forecast levels are an educated guess, he said. In 2012, the water levels predicted were “grossly overestimated,” he said.

Ed Grossman, recreation program manager with the Tongass National Forest in Juneau, said those staying at the Mendenhall Lake Campground have been told to be aware of their surroundings and to be ready to leave by 8 a.m. Friday. No new campers are being allowed in, he said. Trail closures and restrictions on use of the lake are likely, with decisions on those expected to be made Friday, Grossman said.

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