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‘Mass Wasting’ Event Destroys Popular Sitka Trail

By | December 21, 2011

A storm that slammed into Sitka in mid-November made news at the time for its sudden violence, sinking two boats at their moorings in the harbor, as well as damaging the harbors themselves.

While the damage to man-made structures was heavy, a further toll from the storm is just now being understood – in the forest along a popular trail just outside of Sitka. Geologists refer to the event as a “mass wasting” – the wholesale destruction of an area of forest due to any one of several kinds of avalanche or debris flow.

Mass wasting is not unusual in the Tongass – every so often large swaths of relatively young and exposed forest are toppled by high winds and slides. But the mass wasting that destroyed the Beaver Lake Trail occurred in old growth, and two hikers were there to see it go.

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