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 weeks ago Jack and I went north on the Steese Highway to camp for a few days. When we got there it was a normal clear day but dense smoke rolled in later in the weekend and luckily we were on our way out. The road we were on, US Creek Road, gave us a good view of the hillside and one fire. A helicopter was scoping it out but you can’t see it very well in the photos. Later the road was closed by BLM. There’s a couple of Jack fishing shots too. The grayling weren’t biting but I think Jack could’ve kept trying for hours….well he did actually. To view them at the correct size, click on the top one and scroll to the right.
It was a beautiful day when we drove in.
You often have things all to yourself in the White Mountains.
In the next photo you’ll see a forest fire on this hillside.
Forest fire, courtesy of a lightning strike the night before.
After a night of thunderstorms several fires had been set by lightning, and as we found out later, similar had happened all over Alaska.
US Creek Road is on the right.
This is a previously burned area in front of a smoky hillside.
Here’s Jack fishing for grayling with smoke in the background.
Arctic Grayling have a large blue spotted fin on top which Jack snapped a good shot of with his phone.
The first ten or so of these photos are from when Jack drove into Prudhoe Bay June 6th. The rest are from when he was leaving Prudhoe about 4 hours later. The place is barely recognizable. There’s more info on the captions. Click on the first one and scroll to the right.
The original road goes straight – the detour is to the right.
This is wash out between the original road and the detour road.
You can see the delineator marking the right side of the old road, on the far left in the photo.
Now you can see new culverts and the orange fiber optic cable that ran along the old road, now exposed.
The window is up, sorry. The old road was right there where that big hole is.
Those are culverts (on the left) that were used to try to save the road, but they didn’t work.
They used super sacks (on the left, big white sand bags) to line the road while they filled it in. It was eaten away though as evidenced by the collapsed tundra. Water started eroding the tundra and exposed layers of ice.
This tundra was supported by ice that has been eroded/melted.
Looking south at the end of the detour.
Now Jack is heading out of Prudhoe with the detour to the left.
Motorcycle tourists are common even this early in the season.
The water from the Sag River eroded ice and material from under the road.
Here is the orange fiber optic cable that was buried next to the old road with a layer of ice behind it. Prehistoric ice, that is.
Layers of ice under the tundra.
On the left, the Sag River, the culprit.
The base of this building was underwater a short time ago.
Just snow that hasn’t melted yet.
Melt water that has frozen over night.
On the right, that gap between the road and the tundra used to be road.
The pieces of 4×4 at the ends of the crumpled culverts are used for marking the ends.
Gravel from the old road on top of tundra on top of ice. More on the next post.
From the Alaska Department of Transportation website:
The first vehicles traveling south on the Dalton Highway, Mile 413. ADOT&PF photo. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
(PRUDHOE BAY, Alaska) – The Dalton Highway has reopened to traffic after an 18-day closure caused by massive spring breakup flooding.
Traffic began moving on the road at 8 a.m. this morning. The highway is open to two-way traffic, but drivers will encounter a section with flaggers and pilot car at Mile 412-414. The road remains in rough condition through the flood zone at Miles 392-414, with multiple narrow sections and an uneven surface. Drivers are urged to travel slowly and watch for signs.
The reopening of the highway marks a milestone for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT&PF), which has been handling the Dalton flood response since the initial overflow problems in March. The cost of this spring’s emergency response totals $15.5 million.
Flooding on the section of highway south of Deadhorse began in mid-March when overflow from the Sagavanirktok (Sag) River began spilling onto the highway. River aufeis accumulated in the bottom of the shallow and braided river and pushed the flowing water to the top, though temperatures in the area remained below freezing.
DEADHORSE — Unprecedented flooding continues to interfere with daily operations on the North Slope oil patch after surging waters wiped away swaths of the Dalton Highway and isolated a section of Deadhorse, the jumping-off point for the sprawling industrial region.
“This is just epic,” said Mike Coffey, commander of the unified incident command, a response team consisting of the state, the North Slope Borough and oil companies. “People who have been here for decades say they’ve never seen anything like it.”
The state has estimated the costs of the damage and repairs since March at $5.1 million. The federal government may pay for much of that, since the icing and flooding on the highway has been declared a disaster, said Coffey, the director of state transportation maintenance and operations.
Jack said “Holy Sh**!” when he looked at the Alaska Department of Transportation page today. Not because of the photos of the road flooding but when he saw this:
2015: Dalton Highway 401-414 Reconstruction, will start this summer and is a two year project. Construction contract award is $27 million. The scope of the project is to reconstruct the Dalton Highway from Mile Post 401-414, improvements include raising the grade seven feet, replacing culverts and surfacing the road.
2016: Dalton Highway 379-401 Reconstruction, scheduled for construction in 2016, estimated cost is $40-50 million. The scope of the project is to reconstruct the Dalton Highway from Mile Post 379-401, improvements including raising the grade seven feet, replacing culverts and surfacing the road.
Here are two aerial photos of the flooding, both from the Alaska DOT webpage. Click on the photos for more info on the captions.
On the left you can see the remnants of a berm that was created by excavators to hopefully hold the water back and direct it away from the road. But the water has now spilled over the road and broken through the berm. You can also see how the road is washing away. From AK DOT webpage.
On the top of the photo are more berms that were created to direct the water away from the road. From AK DOT webpage.
This is a video from trucker John Slater that shows how the Dalton looked last Saturday. The road is now closed because of the overflowing Sag River making it impassable once again. See prior posts for more info.
Here is a quick video from when Jack went through the cleared lane that the State of Alaska loader made after the avalanche on Atigun Pass. Don’t forget you can change the settings in the lower right hand corner if the video looks grainy.
Here are the rest of the photos from when Jack drove through the flooded area, the portion of the road that was recently closed because of the overflow of the Sag River onto the Dalton. There is a HUGE tracked vehicle that Jack says can float! I can’t see how that’s possible but supposedly, if it breaks through the ice, it won’t sink to the bottom of whatever it is on. In his case it’s a matter of a few feet to the ground. But it’s just hard to imagine either way.
Click on the first one and scroll to the right.
Jack is heading toward Prudhoe so the Sag River overflow is coming from the right.
This is the tracked vehicle that Jack says can float. He called it an excavator with float tracks but it probably has a specific name.
You can see multiple berms created by the excavators.
This plowing equipment is the State of Alaska’s – they are still there plowing the road. They take care of the road and the private contractors take care of the flooding.
Coming up on the line that is heading out of Prudhoe.
Jack is on the other side of the flooded area now. This is what the road is supposed to look like at this time of year.