Avalanches Cut Off Alaska Town

Voluntary evacuations ordered for town of 4,100

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The only highway leading to an Alaska town has been made inaccessible by a number of recent avalanches, state transportation officials said Monday, and it may not open up at all this week.

The town of Valdez lies along Prince William Sound, about a 300-mile drive east of Anchorage. One avalanche fell in a location known as Snow Slide Path at a magnitude “we probably have never seen before,” said Mike Coffey, a transportation department maintenance engineer, according to the Associated Press.

The snow is estimated to have piled up about 100 feet there, on the Lowe River, and about 50 feet high on the road. Up to 11 more avalanches are blocking parts of Richardson highway, CNN reports. The avalanches may have been caused by Alaska’s oddly warm temperatures paired with several inches of rain.

Voluntary evacuations were ordered over the weekend because water had begun to accumulate behind the debris and snow created by the avalanches.

Sheri Pierce, the city clerk, told the AP that Valdez’s 4,100 residents aren’t feeling cut off as one might expect. Mail is being flown into town, fuel companies aren’t expecting shortages and state ferries are being scheduled more frequently if people want to leave with their vehicles. “We’re doing our best to let people know we have food supplies at the grocery stores,” she said.