A section of the main road between Valdez and Fairbanks remained closed Tuesday after road washouts from flash flooding shut down a 16-mile section of the Richardson Highway.
The highway was closed in the area of Paxson Lake, south of Delta Junction.
A bridge washed out at Bear Creek on Monday, followed by flash flooding at Ruby and One Mile creeks, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities said.
Transportation officials encouraged drivers to avoid the area and said the closure was expected to last until Wednesday, though drivers headed to Valdez can follow a detour using the Tok Cutoff.
Flash flooding has created problems in multiple places, a transportation department spokeswoman said Tuesday.
The sheer amount of water eroded the ground and washed over roads, DOT public information officer Danielle Tessen said. Ditches filled with water that then overflowed onto the road and culverts got plugged.
The bridge at Bear Creek was the first problem area, though crews temporarily reopened the road to one lane before additional problems surfaced.
“It’s not the bridge washing out,” Tessen said. “It’s the road that meets the bridge is washing out.”
Along with Bear Creek, the most significant problems involve Gunnysack and Darling creeks, she said.
Crews on Tuesday were establishing a list of multiple damage areas in need of repair including Boulder Creek, Lower Suzy Q and Upper Suzy Q creeks, and Falls Creek, according to a Tuesday morning update. Bear Creek, Ruby Creek and One Mile Creek were experiencing very high waters with showers expected to continue over the next few days. Mudslides were also a concern in some areas.
Washouts damaged fiber optic cables in the area, officials said. Transportation crews were assessing damaged and washed-out areas on both ends of the closure.
The state on Tuesday was working to find places to pull enough material for the extensive repairs that are necessary, Tessen said.
Numerous tourists were calling, looking for information on how to get to Valdez, she said. For Valdez travel, drivers can detour around the closure by using the Tok Cutoff and the Alaska Highway.
An upper-level low pressure system brought showers and some thunderstorms to the Copper River basin on Monday, forecasters say. Prolific cloud cover and showers continued Tuesday.
UPDATE: 10:45 a.m. ⚠️ Richardson Highway ⚠️ REMAINS CLOSED from MP 218 to MP 234 due to road washouts from flash...Posted by Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities on Tuesday, July 12, 2022