300 loads of snow have been removed in efforts to clear Eagle River avalanche

Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 5:11 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Efforts by the city to clear the massive avalanche that’s blocked Hiland Road in Eagle River are continuing as planned, according to the Municipality of Anchorage. The city’s emergency management office said over 300 loads of snow have already been removed.

The Anchorage Office of Emergency Management said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that snow removal at the avalanche in Eagle River is going well and will continue, pending any changes to safety at the avalanche site. The slide has blocked off many homes behind where it covered Hiland Road, and initially knocked out power to more than 100 customers when it occurred Thursday night.

Some residents were evacuated so that the municipality could perform mitigation efforts, to bring down snow that was at risk of coming down naturally. They were allowed to return to their homes Sunday when those efforts were complete.

As of Tuesday, the municipality was continuing to provide shuttling between the West River Road trailhead and Birdsong Drive for people whose homes are behind the slide, along an emergency evacuation trail that was set up. The avalanche has blocked some 300-400 feet of the road and is 80 feet deep in places.

Anchorage Fire Department Assistant Chief Alex Boyd said on Tuesday there are more than 20 trucks on the ground to help clear the snow.

“Once we were able to take the hazard out of play for this we were able to begin the project and things have been going very, very well for the teams on the ground here,” Boyd said.

The municipality initially set up an emergency shelter at the Harry J. McDonald Memorial Recreation Center, but that has now been demobilized.

According to the Matanuska Electric Association, there were 25 members still left without power on Tuesday afternoon. The utility wrote in a post on Facebook that its staff worked with the municipality’s incident command to determine whether they could safety access the area to start repairing power equipment that was damaged by the avalanche.

“MEA is going to create and install some temporary power facilities to get a majority of the 25 members remaining without power back on,” the utility wrote. “If everything goes according to plan, we believe we should have at least 20 of the residences restored within the next 48 hours.”

The Office of Emergency Management reminded those who are using generators to power their home to make sure their main breaker is turned off.

Right now, Boyd said the municipality and the other agencies involved are working from about 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“We’re only working during daylight hours because of the risk assessment needs,” he said. “We need to be able to get eyes on the mountain to take a look at the elements of the snowpack, and work through those processes.”

At the legislative level, the Anchorage Assembly is set to meet on Wednesday to vote on a resolution that would extend Mayor Dave Bronson’s emergency disaster declaration that was issued on Saturday.

Officials have said it could take at least two weeks to clear the snow and debris from Hiland Road.

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