20-Foot Deep & 200-Foot Long Avalanche On Thompson Pass, AK Closes Road To Valdez

Chris Wallner | | AvalancheAvalanche
Plowing on late Wednesday Night. Image: Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities

According to the Alaska Department of Transportation, an avalanche on Thompson Pass, AK has shut down the Richardson Highway to Valdez. It was reported that the avalanche was 200 feet long and 20 feet deep. The pass received 15″ of snow in 90 minutes yesterday and over 40″ of snow in total. The Richardson highway is the only way out of the city of Valdez, Alaska, which has a population of 4,000. 

Absolutely NUKING in AK. Image: Alaska Department of Transportation

The highway is currently closed from mile 12-55, after the avalanche occurred at about 3:30am Wednesday Morning. Unseasonably warm weather and heavy, wet snow is currently impacting the area, which is leaving it prone to more avalanches. Crews are expected to clear the road as soon as conditions improve. The area is currently under a Winter Weather Advisory, with snow totals expected to end up around 20-30″.

The roads in the area. Image: Alaska Department of Transportation

Alaska Department of Transportation Press Release:

(FAIRBANKS, Alaska) –The Richardson Highway is closed near Valdez, from mile 12-55, due to an avalanche at mile 39. The avalanche occurred this morning at approximately 3:30 a.m., and is an estimated 20 feet deep and 200 feet long.

Crews will start clearing avalanche debris when the weather improves, avalanche risk decreases and it is safe to work in the area. Currently, heavy snow fall and unseasonably warm temperatures are creating prime conditions for additional avalanches.

Over the past 24 hours, a mix of heavy snow and rain has fallen in Valdez and the Copper River Basin resulting in very difficult and hazardous driving conditions on the Richardson, Edgerton, Glenn and Tok Cutoff highways. Temperatures have ranged in the high 20s to mid-30s.

All available plows and sand trucks are out working to keep roads passable.

The National Weather Service forecasts that heavy snow will taper off this afternoon, however light snow will continue overnight. The heaviest accumulation will be in Thompson Pass, with up to 45 inches. Valdez has received 12 inches of snow as of 6:30 a.m. and snow continues to fall steady across the region. Another weather front is expected to move in from the gulf Thursday, possibly bringing heavy snow for Thompson Pass with snow and rain in Valdez.

For updated road conditions visit 511.Alaska.Gov or call 511.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities oversees 242 airports, 10 ferries serving 35 communities, more than 5,600 miles of highway and 731 public facilities throughout the state of Alaska. The mission of the department is to “Keep Alaska Moving through service and infrastructure.”

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