• 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

    Heavy snow closes several highways in Fairbanks area

    by Associated Press on Nov 25, 17:01

    Heavy snow is creating difficult driving conditions in the Fairbanks area, with winter conditions closing several highways Wednesday. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports the Richardson Highway was closed for about a 75-mile stretch, from Delta Junction south to Paxson, for about seven hours. Department of Transportation officials cited whiteout conditions, heavy and drifting snow and […]

  • Lifestyle

    Thanksgiving in space: What astronauts eat on Turkey Day

    by Sarah Lewin / Space.com on Nov 25, 16:20

        Astronauts gave thanks and previewed their “traditional” space meal in a video greeting from the International Space Station just in time for Thanksgiving. NASA astronauts Scott Kelly, who is nearing the end of his one-year mission, and Kjell Lindgren took a moment to celebrate the season in a video preview of their Thanksgiving […]

  • News

    Bethel school interior photos highlight damage from fire

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Nov 25, 15:56

    School officials ventured inside Bethel’s burned Kilbuck building Tuesday, and captured several images highlighting the damage wrought by a recent fire. A group of Lower Kuskokwim School District officials discovered some Yupik education materials could be saved, said Superintendent Daniel Walker. While damaged by smoke, the school’s library was largely intact, as were books and […]

  • News

    100 Stone: Rescuing the symbols of mental health issues

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Nov 25, 15:38

    A project highlighting mental illness was nearly destroyed on an Alaska beach Tuesday evening following high winds and waves. Eighty-five statues made of concrete, burlap, plaster and straw were installed at Point Woronzof on Saturday. Known as 100 Stone, the project portrayed the struggle many face while living with mental health issues. Each statue was […]

  • DayBreak

    Workforce Wednesday: Aviation careers

    by Daybreak Staff on Nov 25, 12:37

    From pilots and dispatchers to air traffic controllers, the Alaska labor department projects the need for more than 4,000 workers in the aviation sector over the next few years. Cari-Ann Ketterling with the Alaska Process Industry Careers Consortium (APICC) and Ravn Alaska’s Chief Pilot, Aaron Rocereta, joined Daybreak Wednesday to talk aviation careers. “The aviation field […]

  • News

    Alaska, British Columbia leaders sign cooperative agreement

    by Associated Press on Nov 25, 12:10

    The latest on the signing of a cooperative agreement by Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark (all times local): 2:50 p.m. British Columbia’s minister of energy and mines is hailing as significant the signing of a cooperative agreement between his province and the state of Alaska. The agreement isn’t legally binding. […]

  • DayBreak

    Medical Myths: The real and imagined risks with vaccines

    by Daybreak Staff on Nov 25, 11:08

    Physicians and health officials have been battling misconceptions about vaccines over the past several years. Many parents are now choosing not to get their children vaccinated — a move, doctors say, that prompted the recent measles outbreak at Disneyland over the summer. Wednesday, Dr. Michael Reeves, a family physician at Medical Park Family Care, joined […]

  • Sports

    Making Waves: Pepperdine’s Ogwumike leads the climb back

    by Dave Goldman on Nov 25, 10:55

    Erica Ogwumike is blazing her own path in Malibu. The freshman guard is leading the rebuild of the Pepperdine University’s women’s basketball program. “I’m just trying to play these four years, play basketball, and get a great degree at Pepperdine University, so that’s all I can — the future is far,” she said. There’s another […]