DOT warns of Seward Hwy. delays due to avalanche control

Devin Kelly

Motorists should expect delays of up to 45 minutes on the Seward Highway along eastern Turnagain Arm today as the Alaska Department of Transportation works to trigger avalanches along the roadway.

Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., intermittent closures will be in effect between Girdwood and Bird (Miles 99-90), Girdwood and Portage (miles 88 and 83) and Portage Valley Road (miles 3-5), according to Jill Reese, spokeswoman for the DOT.

Crews will be shooting artillery at avalanche areas to avert uncontrolled snow slides.

"It's normal; we just wanted people to know about it," Reese said. "Warn that people are going to have some delays here."

A backcountry avalanche warning issued Monday is in effect until midnight Tuesday. High avalanche danger exists in the mountains surrounding eastern Turnagain Arm, according to the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center.

As much as 2 feet of snow has fallen in the area since Monday morning and another 7 to 10 inches is forecast for Tuesday, the center said in its morning update.

"Large natural avalanches are likely and human-triggered avalanches are certain due to the rapid loading by the new snow and strong easterly wind," forecasters wrote.

The snow is falling onto a weak base layer, which heightens the risk of avalanches, the center said.

Reach Devin Kelly at or 257-4314.