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Hatcher Pass remains closed a week after several avalanches

Published: Apr. 11, 2021 at 9:06 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Hatcher Pass has been closed since several avalanches hit the area last weekend. Crews from the Alaska Department of Transportation will assess the area Monday to find out when they can clear the debris.

There’s a lot of debris to remove. Most of it is six feet deep, and covers an area of 2,400 feet.

“We haven’t had this level of activity in probably 30-40 years,” said Shannon McCarthy, spokesperson for the Department of Transportation.

Previous avalanches have been cleared in about a day or two. Not now.

“We have five different slides that have crossed the road, lots of heavy snow,’ McCarthy said. “It’s come down much further than we typically see.”

Crews will need at least three days to clear the debris once they get into the affected areas.

“This isn’t a matter of putting a blade down, and clearing the road,” said McCarthy. “This is a matter of hauling off some really heavy, dense snow.”

There’s just one thing holding up the crews from their work.

“Right now it’s still not safe enough for our heavy equipment operators to go and start clearing,” said McCarthy.

Hatcher Pass is not the only high traveled area dealing with heavy snow this winter.

Turnagain Pass has also seen its share of heavy snow. State crews came up from Anchorage back in January to clear that stretch of the Seward Highway while the Department of Transportation worked to get staff in place for the nearby Silvertip Maintenance Department.

Governor Mike Dunleavy ordered it reopened last December after budget cuts closed it in 2019. He announced last week federal COVID funds will be used to keep Silvertip open through the spring of 2024. That’s good news for people who pass through Turnagain Pass during a challenging winter.

“Record snowfall, we’ve had people abort trips midstream because of the conditions,” said Senate President Pete Micciche, who pushed to reopen Silvertip. “We’ve had families missing medical appointments, terrible accidents.”

Heavy snow did not close Turnagain Pass this winter. The same can not be said for Hatcher Pass.

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