MAT-SU — A hailstorm swept across the Mat-Su, and streets and parking lots flooded during a short storm Monday evening in Palmer.
Arctic Avenue running through downtown Palmer was blanketed with more than six inches of standing water at times. One vehicle was disabled driving on North Valley way at 6 p.m. While non-Alaskan residents may consider inclement weather an emergency, many Palmer residents took the opportunity to recreate downtown by means which are normally unavailable. One man was seen fly fishing on Alaska Street near the Palmer Bar.
Cooper Roberts also took advantage of the temporary waterway with his kayak.
“It’s a lot of water and how often do get to kayak in the street,” said Roberts.
Roberts works at Jenski Automotive and had his kayak in his truck in hopes that he would be able to leave work to find an existing body of water. The body of water came to him, and Roberts did not miss his opportunity to kayak in the street.
Janet Kincaid moved to the Valley in 1962 and owns businesses in Downtown Palmer. Kincaid said that both the Colony Inn and the Colony House had water seep in, but there was no major damage.
“I never remember it happening like that,” Kincaid said.
Palmer resident Pete Probasco has been in the Valley for over half a century and also has never seen rain so heavy in the Last Frontier.
“You’ll probably have to wait another 10 years before you see another one like it,” Probasco said.
Probasco’s prediction may be incorrect as showers are expected again on Tuesday. Probasco said that his precipitation monitor a mile west of Palmer got seven tenths of an inch of rain. Helen Munoz has been a resident of Palmer since 1972. Her home on Lazy Mountain was lucky enough to be above much of the precipitation accumulation.
“We can’t do anything about it,” Munoz said. “It’s old mother nature.”
With three quarters of an inch of rain in just under thirty minutes accompanied by intermittent hail and wind, Palmer’s drain system was no match for mother nature.
“It was just overwhelming to our storm sewer system,” said Palmer Mayor Edna DeVries. “It was pretty amazing I think I haven’t seen a downpour like that since I can’t even remember when.”
According to Palmer City Manager Nathan Wallace, there were no malfunctions or clogs in the drain system, it simply was not equipped to handle so much rain so fast.
The National Weather Service issued a warning for residents of the Mat-Su Valley that thunderstorms and rapid precipitation accumulation may occur again on Tuesday night.
“The prime period for storms will be between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Tuesday. These storms will produce frequent lighting, small hail, heavy rain, and gusty winds. The storms will be slow moving, with potential for half an inch or more of rain. Thus, localized urban street flooding is also possible,” according to a Special Weather Statement issued by the National Weather Service.
The inclement weather is not necessarily out of the ordinary, according to NWS Meteorologist Rebecca Anderson. Anderson said that on Tuesday, warm temperatures during the day gave way to cool temperatures in the evening. That combined with atmospheric forces caused conductive activity early in the afternoon. Rising and falling air contributed to the downpour.
“Today we are looking at a very similar pattern looking at radar with lighting products,” Anderson said.
Anderson said that thunderstorms during this part of the year are not uncommon for the Mat-Su Valley, but that it is uncommon for such heavy rain to stop and stay over one area. Tuesday’s expected thunderstorms will hang along the Chugach Mountains in the East Valley and move toward Valdez and Prince William Sound. For comparison, the Kuskokwim river delta was hit hard with lightning storms.
“What made it more rare was right where that cell stationed itself, it dumped rain right over the more urban area. That makes it more notable, but it’s not uncommon to get big storms,” Anderson said.
Contact Frontiersman reporter Tim Rockey at firstname.lastname@example.org.