• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 14s

Road crews grapple with slides, flooding

By Heather Hintze 5:56 AM January 28, 2014

The highway could be closed through at least Sunday.

VALDEZ – Department of Transportation crews are still figuring out how to clean up the avalanches blocking Thompson Pass.

They happened Friday morning and blocked the Richardson Highway, Valdez’s only connection to Alaska’s road system.

State transportation crews have to wait for some of the water backing up behind the snow to go down before they can begin work with heavy equipment.

The area is still too unstable, so on Monday it was all about assessing it from the air.

Pilots from Vertical Solutions Helicopters made trip after trip to the pass with DOT crews and Valdez city officials. DOT said the good news is the water behind the avalanche appears to be receding, possibly by up to four feet. They said there’s still about 12 to 15 feet of water on some parts of the highway, though

“That’s what happens when you plug a large river like this. Unfortunately we’ve had unseasonably warm weather which has increased flows in that river,” said DOT Engineer Jason Sakalaskas. “Right now we’re estimating that river is flowing about one-third its capacity that it does during the summer when it has normal melt off, glacier and rains. So there’s quite a bit of water we’re dealing with there.”

Valdez City Manager John Hozey took a tour along with the police chief and fire chief to get a firsthand look at the damage.

“Wow, it’s very impressive. You don’t see that kind of snow every day. That area is very prone to avalanche, its called Snow Slide Gulch for a reason. It slides there every year, but not like this,” Hozey said.

Once cleanup crews can actually get to the site there will be at least five to 10 people working around the clock.

“It is a large volume [of snow] but we’ve got a lot of equipment and manpower to do it. So we’re thinking it will only take three, four days to remove the snow, so that’s not too bad, once we actually get to removing the snow and the water’s receded,” said Sakalaskas.

“Our biggest concern is making sure residents are taken care of on that east end for any flooding that might occur. Then just making sure our daily needs are met. Life goes on in Valdez,” Hozey said. “This is just life in the Great Land and we’ll survive.”

Hozey met with the Valdez City Council Monday night to update members on the avalanche. DOT engineers were also there to give an assessment of the situation. Hozey said everyone’s just waiting to see when the water will recede so they can decide what to do next.

DOT said the highway will be closed through at least Sunday.

Latest Stories

  • News

    2 survive plane crash between villages in Southwest Alaska

    by Associated Press on Jan 17, 7:57

    Two people in a small airplane survived a crash between southwest Alaska villages. Alaska State Troopers say a Coast Guard helicopter spotted the downed aircraft early Monday night. Investigators say the airplane left Dillingham on a flight to Port Heiden but landed in Pilot Point because of bad weather. The airplane took off again from […]

  • News

    Anchorage drivers weigh in on proposed red light camera ballot initiative

    by Daniella Rivera on Jan 17, 7:46

    What can be done about red light runners in Anchorage? Vice Chairman of the Anchorage Assembly Dick Traini says it’s a question he frequently hears from constituents. That’s why he and Anchorage Assembly Chair Elvi Gray-Jackson have submitted an ordinance that would let voters decide whether to allow the municipality to use cameras to ticket […]

  • Politics

    Interior nominee Zinke to be questioned on public lands, coal

    by Associated Press on Jan 17, 6:54

    Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke says he would never sell, give away or transfer public lands, an important stance in the West where access to hunting and fishing is considered sacrosanct. But Zinke’s commitment to public lands has come into question recently and is likely to be a point of contention Tuesday as a Senate committee […]

  • News

    Alaska’s population climbing despite net migration loss

    by Associated Press on Jan 17, 6:41

    Alaska’s population is climbing despite the fact that more people are moving away from the state than moving in. KTOO-FM reports that according to a Department of Labor report released Thursday, Alaska’s population has grown slightly due to births, though net migration remains down. Net migration – the number of people moving two Alaska minus […]

  • Esteban Santiago ordered held without bond

    by Associated Press on Jan 17, 6:37

    Last updated at 7:50 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 17 The man suspected of fatally shooting five people and wounding six others at a Florida airport has been ordered held without bond. During a Tuesday morning hearing in Fort Lauderdale, an FBI agent confirmed that the 9 mm gun used in the Jan. 6 shooting rampage […]

  • Sports

    Ryne Olson wins Copper Basin 300

    by Dave Goldman on Jan 16, 21:09

    If you follow trends, this was a no-brainer. In the past two years, Ryne Olson has taken third and second place at the Copper Basin 300 sled dog race. Like a blue chip, which grows slowly and consistently over time, this one found its highest point yet. Now you can call her a Copper Basin 300 champion. […]

  • Politics

    ‘It’s time to pull together’: Alaskans plan to attend Women’s March on Washington

    by Eric Ruble on Jan 16, 19:36

    The final preparations are underway for President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration in Washington, D.C. on Friday. However, a few hundred thousand people are expected to participate in a separate event happening the next day in the nation’s capital. The purpose of the Women’s March on Washington – according to its organizers – is to send a […]

  • News

    Red Cross volunteers install free smoke detectors for MLK Day

    by Shannon Ballard on Jan 16, 19:09

    Martin Luther King Jr. Day not only honors the life and legacy of the legendary civil rights leader, it also offers opportunities to translate his words into action. On Monday, that sense of volunteerism and community was felt in the South Park Estates trailer park off Arctic Boulevard. A group of about a dozen people with […]