Alaska road maintenance crews conduct avalanche clearing work along the Seward Highway on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022 near Girdwood, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities)

Alaska road maintenance crews conduct avalanche clearing work along the Seward Highway on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022 near Girdwood, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities)

Wintry weather causes avalanches around Southcentral

At least two avalanches, as well as excessive snow, caused road closures Friday

Rough winter weather continued to pummel Southcentral Alaska on Friday, prompting further closures and an avalanche that severed traffic flow on the Seward Highway near the Kenai Peninsula welcome sign.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities announced early Friday that the Seward Highway was closed between Mileposts 82 and 99 because of an avalanche on the road at Milepost 91.5, near Girdwood. The highway reopened to traffic moving in both directions around 2 p.m. on Friday.

The department announced a second avalanche an hour later at Milepost 8 of the Old Glenn Highway, near the Knik River Bridge. As of Friday at 8:30 p.m., the Old Glenn Highway had not reopened and was expected to last into Saturday to allow maintenance crews to see if mitigation work was needed prior to clearing the slide.

Additional closures were later announced on the Richardson Highway near Summit Lake due to excessive snow on the road, including up to 2 feet in some areas, but the area reopened Friday afternoon.

Friday’s closures followed similar action taken on the Kenai Peninsula last week. Classes at most Kenai Peninsula Borough School District schools, as well as at Kenai Peninsula College were canceled Wednesday due to icy conditions. Those closures followed heavy snowfall and a forecast of wintry weather by the National Weather Service.

As of Friday at around 9 p.m., Alaska 511 reported that travel on the Seward Highway north of Milepost 44, near Summit Lake, to be “difficult.” Road conditions included packed snow and snow on the roadway.

Motorists who encounter a naturally triggered avalanche on a highway are discouraged from trying to drive through the avalanche, regardless of size. Rather, DOT&PF advises motorists to drive away from the avalanche area immediately and to not step outside of their vehicles in avalanche areas.

Real-time traffic updates, including alerts about avalanche hazard reduction and closures, can be found on the DOT&PF 511 system at 511.alaska.gov.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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