Almost three weeks after a landslide estimated to contain 40,000 cubic yards of debris blocked the only road between Seward and Lowell Point, motorists can now travel between communities. Lowell Point Road reopened to two-lane traffic Friday, with drivers encouraged to exercise caution and be prepared to stay in Lowell Point for “extended periods of time” if another slide occurs.
From Friday at 12 p.m. to May 31 at 8 a.m., Lowell Point Road will be open for 24 hours per day, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management said in an update. Between 8 a.m. on May 31 and June 2, the road will be closed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. while more blasting work is done.
Saturday marks three weeks since the May 7 slide off Bear Mountain severed vehicular traffic between the communities. Since then, crews from Metco Alaska LLC and Advanced Blasting Services have worked to remove debris and stabilize the area. Locals have relied on water taxi operations provided free of cost for essential travel in the interim.
Still, officials said the area remains unstable.
Emergency management said in a Friday update that any motorists who choose to travel on Lowell Point Road do so “at their own risk,” as Bear Mountain continues to be unstable.
“A landslide could occur at any time,” the borough said. “If you choose to drive Lowell Point Road, you should be prepared for unexpected road closures, and prolonged stays in Lowell Point.”
The City of Seward said Friday that while the road is scheduled to be open until 8 a.m. on Tuesday, it will be closed if, at any point, it becomes unsafe. Through the weekend, people will not be allowed to walk along, bicycle on or fish off the road, and motorists will not be allowed to stop and take pictures, the city said.
Two members of the Alaska State Defense Force and one member of the Alaska Naval Militia were deployed by the Alaska National Guard, the borough said, to assist with traffic control. Motorists are asked to pay attention to signage along the road and to watch out for falling debris or rocks.
While Lowell Point Road is open to traffic, free water taxi and shuttle service will not be available.
People interested in paying for a water taxi ride to or from Lowell Point can contact Aurora Charters, which offers six departure times from Seward and Lowell Point between 6 a.m. and 7:40 p.m. at 907-224-3968. Miller’s Landing, which led water taxi efforts immediately after the slide, announced Friday that it is returning to “business as usual” and will not offer taxis outside of its regularly scheduled operations.
A resolution adopted by the Seward City Council that declared a state of emergency in response to the event says that the slide was estimated to be more than 200 feet tall and 300 feet wide. It was estimated to contain more than 40,000 cubic yards of debris. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce also issued disaster declarations for the area.
Updates about the status of the slide area are being shared on the borough’s KPB Alerts Facebook page and on the City of Seward’s Facebook page, as well as at kpboem.blogspot.com.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.