Alaska News

Dalton Highway reopens after avalanche buried trucks

Update 8:30 a.m. Thursday: One lane of the Dalton Highway has been reopened at Atigun Pass, following a day of work to clear an avalanche that struck trucks Monday evening.

Meadow Bailey, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said Thursday that the highway was reopened to limited traffic between Mile 241 and Mile 248 overnight.

"The report is that there's pretty rough conditions," Bailey said. "They're clearing with plows and they had a line of vehicles behind them."

Crews spent Wednesday firing howitzer shells at avalanche slopes in the pass, then clearing snow from the resulting slides.

Original story:

The Dalton Highway is likely to remain closed for all of Wednesday after an avalanche at Atigun Pass struck passing trucks, two of which remained buried, officials said.

The drivers escaped the trucks and nobody was injured in the slide at 7:30 p.m. Monday, which occurred as four trucks were traveling between Mile 241 and Mile 248 of the highway. Gates blocking traffic through the pass were closed in response to the avalanche and smaller subsequent slides.


Meadow Bailey, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said a snowstorm that moved in after the avalanche kept road crews from returning to the site Tuesday.

Posted by Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities on Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The process to clear the area began Wednesday morning with avalanche-mitigation work, including the use of howitzers to bring down snow in the pass. Bailey said two series of firings had been completed by Wednesday afternoon, and crews were preparing for a third.

"They said they had never seen so much snow come down," Bailey said.

Crews will have to remove snow from the avalanches to find the buried trucks, Bailey said, then assess them for damage or fuel spills before removing them. DOTPF is coordinating with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to prepare for any required cleanup.

The highway is unlikely to be reopened Wednesday, according to Bailey, and the work could take longer depending on the buried trucks' condition.

Chris Klint

Chris Klint is a former ADN reporter who covered breaking news.