The Herald Bulletin

November 1, 2013

Crews clear huge Alaska landslide from road


The Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Crews at Denali National Park in Alaska have cleared a massive landslide from a road that is a popular tourist destination each summer.

The landslide discovered last week covered 200 feet of the Denali Park Road with tons of rock and soil.

Crews taking advantage of unseasonably mild weather finished clearing the road at day's end Monday, and some snow has since fallen, park spokeswoman Maureen Gualtieri said Friday. It's not clear if instability of the terrain will affect visitors next summer, park officials have said.

Gualtieri said the affected section of road, 37 miles from the park entrance, appears intact. That part of the road already was closed and there were no reported casualties from the slide, which officials believe occurred recently.

An estimated 30,000 yards of debris fell from 500 feet above the road. Cleanup crews pushed the debris downslope off the road, Gualtieri said

The road and slide area will be assessed next spring before it opens to traffic.

Meanwhile, a park geologist is scrutinizing satellite imagery that was taken in recent years, as well as more recently. Gualtieri said the goal is to determine any other areas of concern that might be worth looking at next spring.

"Looking for features, for attributes, that were in place for this slide, just seeing if there any other areas along the park road where similar attributes are in place," she said.

Although all but the first 3 miles of the road is closed, the park is open for winter recreation such as skiing, snowshoeing and mushing.

Longtime park workers recall that the last huge landslide occurred in the late 1980s. In that slide, 45 miles in, more roadway was covered, but less debris fell.

Denali is located 180 miles north of Anchorage. It is home to numerous wild animals, including moose, bears, wolves and caribou. Many visitors take buses along the road for close-up views of wildlife and scenery.

The park attracts just over 400,000 tourists a year, with most visiting in the warmer months.

The 92-mile road is dormant and unmaintained in the winter, with crews beginning to clear it long before bus drivers start training in early May.

The road opens gradually, with buses running the full length of the road on June 8.