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Emergency shelter available for Juneau families facing avalanche threat

Published: Feb. 27, 2021 at 9:39 PM AKST
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) -Several families at the base of Mount Juneau are urged to find a new place to stay.

“Here in Juneau, we have a huge avalanche path that still hasn’t slid,” said Tom Mattice, Juneau’s Emergency Program Manager.

The Behrands Avenue Avalanche Path is of extra concern.

“The Behrends Path is one of the bigger ones,” Mattice said. “It goes all the way to the summit, so it’s got more snow on the upper elevations.”

The recent snow up there has not helped.

“With this storm we had over the last week giving us nearly a meter of snow, and with warming and rain over (Saturday) tonight, and into (Sunday) tomorrow with a pretty good amount of rain, we’re worried about rain on snow events. But also just natural avalanches releasing,” Mattice said.

Any avalanche could be 4-6 feet deep. People in the Behrands Avenue area are encouraged to evacuate.

“It’s really hard to call that area safe. It’s really hard to get in there and effect rescue,” Mattice said. “The last thing we want to do is get somebody hurt in an avalanche.”

The city has set up an evacuation center at Centennial Hall with the help of the American Red Cross. It can house up to 40 families.

“We can expand that,” said Sudi Hargis of the American Red Cross. “We have other volunteers we can call in and expand that if other avalanches run around the Juneau area.”

Those who evacuate are advised to pack two nights worth of personal needs. Meanwhile, a warming shelter is also open at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council.

Plus, the Juneau Animal Rescue is offering free emergency boarding for families who need a place to shelter their pets until the danger has passed.

“Right now in Southeast Alaska we have widespread instabilities,” said Mattice.

It’s one path on Mount Juneau that has him and others more concerned than usual.

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