Alaska News

Road along bay in Seward remains buried under landslide

(The above video, which contains strong language, shows Saturday’s landslide at Lowell Point Road in Seward. Video by Josh Gray.)

Work to clear Lowell Point Road in Seward after a significant landslide Saturday evening hadn’t begun Sunday because of continuing safety concerns, the city reported.

The public is requested to stay clear of the road along Resurrection Bay for their own safety after a slide — estimated at 200-feet high and 300-feet wide — buried the road on Saturday night and has cut off access between Seward and the community of Lowell Point to the south. It is unknown how long the road will remain closed, the city said Sunday.

“It’s not stable still,” said City Clerk Brenda Ballou said. “Until we’re very, very positive that that’s a very stable environment, the work will not begin so the roads are still cut off.”

City officials met with local contractor Metco Alaska on Sunday morning to discuss debris removal, Ballou said. Metco Alaska has begun mobilizing equipment in preparation, but the work cannot begin until the area is safe.

“It may be over 40,000 cubic yards of debris that will have to be removed,” Ballou said.

While enormous boulders have already come down during the landslide, it’s hard to tell if the boulders above are stable or loose, Ballou said.

“It could get more or it could just settle down; We don’t know yet,” she said.

City officials continue to monitor and assess the situation from land and water and using drone footage, the city said in a written update Sunday morning.

After the slide occurred around 7:40 p.m. on Saturday, the City of Seward has declared an emergency, and officials started asking people to stay away from the area.

”We’re all pulling together. There’s no loss of life. And we’re super happy about that,” Seward City Manager Janette Bower said. She noted it could take a week to clear the road.

Seward police in an alert advised vessels in the vicinity of Resurrection Bay that the slide “generated a large floating debris field that includes a number of full sized trees.”

Photo of Lowell Point Road landslide

Posted by City of Seward on Saturday, May 7, 2022

Photos and video of the slide showed a pileup of trees, dirt and debris that broke away from the steep slope above the road and crossed into the water below.

Josh Gray, 33, was driving out Lowell Point Road to camp for the night and meet a group of friends who’d gone halibut fishing earlier in the day.

They were stopped at a small rockslide, and watched with a few other cars as a loader chipped away at the pile. Then, some bigger rocks started tumbling down from the slope.

”Once the trees fell, it was like watching dominoes,” he said. “We’re all looking up at the hillside wondering how high up it’s going to go.”

The Saturday evening response drew Bower, the city police and fire chiefs and Seward’s public works director.

Those officials estimated that there were a couple hundred people — residents and weekend campers — stuck on the far side of the landslide, which cuts off 2 miles of dead-end road.

“Lowell Point has maybe 200-ish residents normally and we have a lot of visitors here though already,” Ballou said. “So it’s really unknown how many additional people might be affected.”

The water taxis are running between Miller’s landing and the Seward Harbor to help visitors and residents, Ballou said.

The taxis can run supplies, and a fire boat can respond to any emergencies, Bower said.

Anyone displaced by the landslide can seek shelter at Seward High School, city officials said. Shelter inquiries can be directed to Jason Bickling at 907-491-0803.

City officials described Lowell Point Road as critical infrastructure, and made note of “city wastewater and electric lines that run the length of that road.”

Gray and the group of friends accompanying him were left searching for a new spot to camp Saturday night. The worst part for them was that the slide left the halibut stuck on one side, and the fixings on the other.

”We’ve got the flour and the butter and the eggs and all the tartar sauce,” Gray said. “The menu’s kind of split.”

This story was reported by Nathaniel Herz in Seward and Alena Naiden in Anchorage.