Half-inch of rain briefly pummels Boise

Storms skip over some Idaho fires and cause mudslides in the wake of another.

kterhune@idahostatesman.comSeptember 4, 2013 

Sun Valley-Mudslides

Mudslides kept people busy cleaning up an area north of Hailey Tuesday, on the heels of the Beaver Creek Fire, which officials deemed fully contained earlier this week.

ASHLEY SMITH — Times-News

Forecasters say storms are set to continue all week, but the heaviest rains will pass through the Treasure Valley on Wednesday night.

It’s too early to say if that storm will bring any flooding. Tim Barker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said he “wouldn’t be surprised.” The NWS will continue to monitor the advancing weather and issue any watches or warnings needed ahead of time, he said.

A flash flood warning Tuesday sent an alert cascading through residents’ smartphones in Boise and Garden City. But the morning downpour came and went without any reports of significant flooding.

“It seemed to weaken quite a bit as it went up over the Foothills,” Barker said of the storm.

The National Weather Service logged .47 inches of rain on Tuesday morning, most of that coming in just 30 minutes, Barker said.

Nearly 630 Idaho Power customers in Boise, including the Boise Towne Square Mall, were left without electricity during the storm. Power was restored to everyone by Tuesday afternoon.

ACROSS IDAHO

The NWS issued more flash flood warnings later Tuesday in south-central and eastern Idaho, and Barker said some spots in southern Twin Falls and Owyhee counties received rainfall at rates of up to an inch an hour. That can be dangerous as the downpour moves in steeper terrain, he said.

“If that was to fall onto any steeper terrain or any burn scars, that could cause a problem,” he said.

As evidence, look to Blaine County, where crews cleaned up clumps of mud and debris that were washed down hillsides scorched and left bare by recent wildfires.

The Times-News reported that up to 18 inches of mud covered at least one public road outside of Hailey. Heavy rains that passed through the area Monday and Tuesday flushed mud and debris into several other roads that access subdivisions threatened by the Beaver Creek Fire.

So far, Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey says no homes are threatened by the mudslides. But some homeowners are hiring private contractors to help clean up driveways and private roads.

Fire officials declared the 170-square-mile fire contained Monday.

Farther west, the rain missed the Weiser Complex — two fires along the eastern side of Brownlee Reservoir. But the outlook there is far from grim, officials say.

“Progress is being made,” fire information officer Robyn Broyles said Tuesday afternoon. Crews have the Hells Canyon Fire completely contained, and the Raft Fire is listed as 70 percent contained.

Firefighters will continue work to reinforce fire lines around the Hells Canyon Fire, Broyles said. And although the downpour missed the Raft Fire, the wet weather proved helpful to firefighters.

“We did not get rain on the fire, but what is helping is we got higher relative humidity,” she said.

The blaze was listed Tuesday at 29,456 acres, but that number may increase with more accurate aerial mapping. The acreage likely increased Monday night when the fire made a run north, Broyles said.

The Kelley Fire was luckier: A few sections of the 14,867-acre blaze received rainfall, fire information officer Jennifer Myslivy said.

“Here at the incident command post, we’ve had showers since about 8:30 last night on-and-off throughout today,” she said Tuesday. “It’s been sporadic across the fire area, so some areas have got it while others have not.

“With the cooler temperatures and the cloud cover, that’s definitely helping keep the fires down.”

The Kelley Fire, which is burning seven miles southeast of Featherville, was 10 percent contained Tuesday.

Cloudy skies and a departure from the searing heat were also welcome relief to firefighters working to contain the blaze.

“Right now, the crews are trying to take advantage of the cooler temperatures,” Myslivy said. “They’re putting direct line in where they may not have been before because it was too hot.”

The fire grew about 1,000 acres since Monday night, Myslivy said. Compared to recent jumps of 5,000 or 6,000 acres per day, that is an improvement, she said.

Katie Terhune: 377-6219

The Associated Press contributed.

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