Two truckers were caught in an avalanche Monday night on the Dalton. Jack was not involved and neither of the drivers were seriously hurt. The road is now closed and the State is working on trying to trigger avalanches before they reopen. We’ve had tons of snow, seems like a record breaking year for snow actually, but for some reason no one made the decision to deal with this before it got to this point.
Photo credit: Jonothan James Kasak via the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner website
“One of the trucks that was stuck was a tanker carrying methanol; the other one carried glycol. When the highway reopens, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will evaluate whether there were any spills. The other two trucks were able to proceed with minimal assistance from a Department of Transportation crew, Bailey said.
Atigun Pass is one of a handful of mountain passes where work crews frequently fire Howitzer artillery at snowcovered slopes to trigger avalanches in order to prevent unplanned slides. Avalanche gates were installed on the south side of the pass three years ago to stop vehicles headed into avalanche danger. This was the first time the gate has been used.”
A few days ago Jack was held up for a couple of hours because of this avalanche that blocked the road on Atigun Pass. To me, it looks like a small avalanche. But Jack says this is the average amount of snow that usually falls on the road in this spot. Other areas involve more snow, or less.
If a truck was caught in the path of this avalanche, it could have pushed the truck over the guard rail and ended up rolling it down the hill. This is very rare nowadays since the State of Alaska does more avalanche control, shooting artillery at the mountain to dislodge the snow.
You can see the blocked road, the loader removing the snow, and also the melt water that was running alongside the road before the avalanche and which is crossing the road afterward. The last photo shows the loader dumping water as well as snow. They are best viewed if you click on the first one and scroll to the right. I had to substantially lighten the photos because of low light conditions. You can see the sun over the next hill and all the trucks waiting on the other side of the blockage. This is about 10:30 at night.
A major avalanche happened very recently along the Richardson Highway, about 20 or so miles from Valdez. Below are photos Jack was able to acquire from a friend – taken by Alyeska (and we hope no copyright has been violated by posting them here).
You can see here where the snow has covered the highway and the river that runs alongside it:
Here is the same thing but farther away.
And the rest are from another angle, showing the pooling of river water that is covering a long stretch of the highway.
So needless to say the Richardson Highway is closed and people who live in Valdez can only get out of the town by water or air. Jack says the snow will be removed by loaders but that sure seems like a dangerous job…!