Power restored to all residents after Eagle River avalanche; Anchorage Assembly extends disaster declaration

Power restored to all residents after Eagle River avalanche; Anchorage Assembly extends disaster declaration
Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 8:12 AM AKDT|Updated: Mar. 30, 2022 at 6:14 PM AKDT
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EAGLE RIVER, Alaska (KTUU) - Matanuska Electric Association crews have restored power to every member initially affected by outages, five days after a massive avalanche wiped out power lines and buried Hiland Road under 80 feet of snow. Also on Wednesday, the Anchorage Assembly voted unanimously to extend the emergency disaster declaration made last week by the mayor.

According to MEA spokesperson Jennifer Castro, 24 of the remaining 25 homes had their power back on as of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night, and crews restored power to the final member without power by Wednesday evening.

“Once the road has been cleared, MEA will go back to the area and repair and replace the permanent power infrastructure,” Castro said in an email.

Initial estimates showed 145 homes without power after the slide, approximately 40% of MEA customers in the Hiland Road area. Slowly and steadily, the company has been able to restore power to homes using temporary lines.

The enormous avalanche slide buried the road near the South River Lane neighborhood late Thursday night in depths up to 80 feet and 400 feet across. The Municipality of Anchorage said it could take at least two weeks to clear and reopen the road.

The Hiland Road avalanche is unprecedented in its size, according to the Anchorage Fire Department, though no homes were destroyed in the incident.

However, at the request of Mayor Dave Bronson’s office, the Anchorage Assembly held an emergency special meeting on Wednesday to extend the mayor’s disaster declaration, due to potential danger still in the area.

Bronson’s emergency disaster declaration in response to the avalanche was issued on March 26, and was set to expire Wednesday night. At the special meeting, his administration asked the assembly to extend the emergency order due to conditions in the area.

The assembly voted unanimously to extend the emergency order to April 15, and they added an amendment for the mayor’s office to give them updates on the situation every Wednesday, starting next week.

Municipal Manager Amy Demboski said on the roadway, there are approximately 30,000 cubic yards of snow, and it will take well over 4,000 dump truck loads to move it.

However, the primary reason the mayor’s administration requested the extension is there is still potential for another slide due to weather conditions.

“This instability in this snowpack from this avalanche extends to the entire snowpack in the area, not just this bowl that we’re working in,” said Anchorage Fire Department Assistant Chief Alex Boyd. “It’s unstable and it’s been there since early in the season, and as the spring thaw-freeze cycle continues, that spring shed can cause that instability to grow worse. And that’s what we are looking at hourly.”

The assembly also approved an emergency ordinance to appropriate $1.5 million to the Disaster Recovery Fund for resources dedicated to cleaning up the avalanche debris.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the disaster declaration deadline to April 15, not the date of April 19.

Editor’s note: this article has been updated with additional information.

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