2016 July Monthly Report
July 1st saw heavy rain across the Southcentral area with Eagle River reporting 0.92Ó and the Palmer Airport reporting 0.87Ó. The Mendenhall Lake near Juneau reported an all-time high water level (from 49 years) at 11.99Õ, topping the 2014 record of 11.85Õ. The wet weather generated a mud slide on the Parks Highway at mile 260 near Healy on the 3rd. The next day flood advisories were issued for the Denali Region due to of rain of up to 2Ó in the area observed during the previous weekend. On the 5th 1.78Ó of rain was reported at Robertson River near Tanacross in just 2 1/2 hours, while a flood advisory was issued for the Kuskokwim River at Nikolai. The continuing heavy rains in the Alaska Range resulted in a mud slide on the Denali Park Highway on the night of the 15th, closing the road till it could be cleared the next day. The accumulated wet weather for the summer resulted in delay of the planned opening of the new Tanana Road until October.
The Alatna Complex of fires was the heaviest staffed fire for the first part of the month at 165 personnel as the fires threatened Native Allotments and cabins in the Allekaket area. At the end of the month the total area burned in the complex was over 108,000 acres. On the 14th there were over 25,000 lightning strikes, and more than 40 wildfires were started. The next day there were more than 25,000 lightning strikes once again, and another 40 wildfires were started. Rains that accompanied the storms put many of the fires out.
The Cutoff Fire near Tok started on the 13th and threatened the Tok Cutoff. The next day, a second fire in the area, the Tok River fire started and also threatened the Tok Cutoff. This fire was fought with over 130 personnel assigned. It was listed as contained on the 27th, and crews were detached. The fire ended the month at about 700 acres. The Mid-Salcha Fire started on the 14th and threatened a number of cabins in the area and was three miles from the Trans Alaska Pipeline. The fire was fought from the air with both planes and helicopters and it reached about 1,000 acres before the wet weather helped to contain the fire at 90% on the 23rd.
The human caused McHugh Creek fire started on the 16th south of Anchorage along the Seward Highway. It had grown to about 25 acres the next day. The fire was heavily fought over the next ten days and was reported to be 100% contained on the 25th, assisted by rains that moved into the area on the 21st. While residents of nearby subdivisions were warned to prepare for possible evacuations, no evacuations orders were needed. The total area burned came in at over 700 acres. Even after containment was reached, firefighters were still working on mop up operations and strengthening firebreaks. Most of the fighting was from the air due to the extreme slopes along the Seward Highway. At times smoke from the fire was reported in Anchorage, and the Seward Highway as well as trails in the area were closed. Total estimate cost to fight the fire was over 6 million dollars.
As heavy rains to the retuned Interior for the second half of the month, numerous flood watches and advisories were issued for areas of the Interior, especially for the Chena River Basin, for which flood advisories started on the 17th when up to 2" of rain fell in the area, and continued nearly continuously till the end of July. The Moose Creek Dam started regulating the flow of the Chena River on the evening of the 20th. The dam ceased flood control operations on then morning of the 29th, but then restarted operations on the 31st as another surge or water moved down the Chena River (see Figure). The Chena continued to flood low-lying areas around Fairbanks with flood advisories still in effect for rivers and small streams east and north of Fairbanks at the end of the month. The Fairbank's annual Rubber Duckie Race was postponed from its usual Golden Days Saturday of the 20th to the 27th, and then postponed again till August due to the continued high waters on the Chena River.
On the 30th strong rainfall caused a mudslide, which closed the Denali Park Road at mile 67. The slide was 100 feet wide and up to ten feet deep and caused damage to the roadway. This closure trapped more than 100 tourists in the park. Lake Minchumina was reported at its highest level in more than 40 years.
At the start of the month there had been about 100 lightning caused wildfires that had burned about 125,000 acres. By the end of the month those totals had grown to 228 fires and 470,000 acres.