The Richardson Highway, which accesses the port town of Valdez, Alaska is closed due to an avalanche that is estimated to be 20 feet deep and 200 feet long.
Heavy snow and rain over the past few days has made travel in the area very hazardous. So far areas such as Thompson Pass have seen upwards of 6 feet of new snow in the last 48 hours and accumulation is expected through the end of the week.
Alaska Department of Transportation Press Release:
(FAIRBANKS, Alaska) –The Richardson Highway is closed near Valdez, from mile 12-55, due to an avalanche at mile 39. The avalanche occurred this morning at approximately 3:30 a.m., and is an estimated 20 feet deep and 200 feet long.
Crews will start clearing avalanche debris when the weather improves, avalanche risk decreases and it is safe to work in the area. Currently, heavy snow fall and unseasonably warm temperatures are creating prime conditions for additional avalanches.
Over the past 24 hours, a mix of heavy snow and rain has fallen in Valdez and the Copper River Basin resulting in very difficult and hazardous driving conditions on the Richardson, Edgerton, Glenn and Tok Cutoff highways. Temperatures have ranged in the high 20s to mid-30s.
All available plows and sand trucks are out working to keep roads passable.
The National Weather Service forecasts that heavy snow will taper off this afternoon, however light snow will continue overnight. The heaviest accumulation will be in Thompson Pass, with up to 45 inches. Valdez has received 12 inches of snow as of 6:30 a.m. and snow continues to fall steady across the region. Another weather front is expected to move in from the gulf Thursday, possibly bringing heavy snow for Thompson Pass with snow and rain in Valdez.
For updated road conditions visit 511.Alaska.Gov or call 511.
The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities oversees 242 airports, 10 ferries serving 35 communities, more than 5,600 miles of highway and 731 public facilities throughout the state of Alaska. The mission of the department is to “Keep Alaska Moving through service and infrastructure.”