Mendenhall River water levels are now receding after last Wednesday evening’s jökulhlaup or glacial outburst from Mendenhall Glacier.
On Friday, Mendenhall Lake peaked at a record level of 11.81 feet at 4:30 p.m., and Mendenhall River peaked at 13.52 feet at about 4 p.m.
Some residents of the flood prone View Drive area reported water coming into their yards and rising up to their back decks before retreating on Friday evening. But at least one homeowner reported interior flooding of his home and garage that will require extensive clean up and repairs.
U.S. Forest Service managers announced on Saturday afternoon that they were reopening the Mendenhall Lake Campground, and almost all of the trails and facilities in the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area were open to the public. The Nugget Falls Trail would remain closed as it was still covered by lake water.
The City and Borough of Juneau also announced on Saturday that Airport Dike Trail or Emergency Vehicle Access Road was reopened.
CBJ Emergency Services Program Manager Tom Mattice said they thought they had a worst-case scenario developing with lake and river levels projected to crest at slightly higher levels.
“It’s important to people to recognize that these are models and there’s some flexibility on how high it’s going to get and how fast it’s going to come,” Mattice said. “We just have to err on the side of caution and have everybody be prepared.”
View Drive homeowner Don Habeger said floodwaters came up short of their ground floor.
“You could hear water going into the crawlspace, but we never got it into the house,” Habeger said.
Other residents along View Drive also reported higher water that covered backyard vegetation and advanced up to the edge of their back decks. But no damage was reported.
It was a different story for Bob Winter. His house on View Drive may be one of the lowest and sits just off of a little dip in the street. Small pools of river water were still present in his front yard on Saturday morning. Winter said he and his wife spent Thursday and Friday night in a hotel, only to return home to a tell-tale ring of spruce and hemlock needles around his house and garage. There was about 37 inches of water in the garage, and about 10 inches of water in the slightly higher home.
A cleaning crew was already at Winter’s home on Saturday morning checking out the wet carpet, buckled vinyl flooring, and water-soaked walls and furniture.
“We got the important stuff up off of the floor before it happened,” Winter said. “We thought the garage was all taken care of. We put stuff up on tables. It’s never been this high before, but the water was actually up over the top of the tables by a foot. Chainsaws, tools, and things like that all got wiped out.”
The Juneau office of the National Weather Service issued another flood advisory for the Mendenhall Lake and Mendenhall River on Sunday. Heavy rainfall and mountain snowmelt prompted water levels to rise again.
“It doesn’t appear that was a Suicide Basin second release,” said Kimberly Vaughan of the National Weather Service. “Just rainfall that fell brought the lake levels up even higher.”
She said Mendenhall Lake peaked at 9.5 feet and Mendenhall River peaked at 11.13 feet at about 4 a.m. Monday, and the second flood advisory was cancelled after waters started receding.