A winter storm moving up the Kenai Peninsula has created some extremely hazardous driving conditions, even prompting the closure of the Whittier Tunnel as well as a stretch of the Seward Highway.
At 9:00am Tuesday, the Department of Transportation closed the Seward Highway between Girdwood and Potter Marsh due to extreme weather and two early morning avalanches.
The DOT reopened the stretch from Potter Marsh to Bird Point at 5:00pm Tuesday, but says they expect the rest of the highway to Girdwood to remain closed until at least noon Wednesday. Rick Feller, the spokesman for the Alaska DOT, says crews did successfully trigger an avalanche at mile 98.5, just north of Bird Point.
“That slide did cross the highway and cover it. That will be part of our job tomorrow in doing further avalanche risk assessment and cleanup work,” Feller said.
Kevin Wright, with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center, says that avalanche danger along the Seward Highway is considerable, but with the continued heavy snowfall and high winds, it’s progressing quickly to the high danger range in the back-country.
“That means that natural avalanches are possible, they’re likely to happen. If you’re out traveling in the mountains, it’s very likely to trigger an avalanche yourself if you’re traveling on the steeper slopes. So, we consider those conditions to be not recommended for people to head out into the mountains,” Wright said.
In other areas of the Kenai Peninsula: Seward has received over a foot of snow, and Homer experienced 60 mile per hour gusts and 6 to 7 foot drifts.
Chugach Electric spokesman Phil Steyer says that there have been relatively few outages reported in Moose Pass, Cooper Landing, Anchorage and Hope.
Updates on road conditions can be found at the 511.alaska.gov website or by calling 511.