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Avalanche closes Dalton Highway at Atigun Pass; 4 trucks hit

Updated 12:45 p.m., March 1: Crews are working to clear the Dalton Highway through Atigun Pass after avalanches blocked the road. Avalanche danger is still extreme and the road will remain closed through today, according to the Alaska Department of Transportation.

FAIRBANKS—Four trucks were caught in avalanches Monday in Atigun Pass on the Dalton Highway, and two of them remained stuck Tuesday evening.

The Dalton Highway remained closed from Mile 241 to Mile 247.

All of the truck drivers were able to get out of their vehicles and get a ride out of the avalanche area. No significant injuries were reported, Alaska Department of Transportation northern region spokeswoman Meadow Bailey said.

Crews decided to close the avalanche gates Monday night after seeing small avalanches through the mountain pass.

The four trucks hit by the avalanche were past the gates when the slide struck at about 7:30 p.m. Monday.

A five-second dashboard video posted by driver John Slater and shared by the Department of Transportation Facebook page shows blizzard conditions, with the taillights of another tanker in front of the truck barely visible. A wave of snow then suddenly washes between the two trucks. A photo showed by Slater shows a wall of snow debris nearly reaching the top of a tanker.

Bailey spoke with Slater after he returned from the highway.

"He was fine. He was shaken up, though. He said it was a very scary situation and he drives through everything," Bailey said. "For him to say it's very scary I think says a lot."

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.

Avalanche gates were also lowered on the Steese Highway at Eagle Summit during this week's storm. As of Tuesday, the Steese Highway was technically open, but the Department of Transportation's 511 map advised against driving the highway Tuesday night between 80 and 114 Mile of the Steese because of snow on the road and 40 mph winds.

It's not yet known when Dalton Highway will reopen, Bailey said. Crews are waiting for the weather to clear before going to the area to shoot down other possible slides and clear the road.

The Dalton Highway is unpaved and known for its difficult driving conditions. In recent years the most significant impasse on the highway has come not from avalanches but from springtime flooding.

Source of article click here : newsminer

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