Weather

Sterling Highway reopens with one lane after storm-triggered landslide near Cooper Landing

Update, 2 p.m. Monday:

The Sterling Highway opened one lane around noon Monday, an official from the Department of Transportation said.

The highway closed early Sunday near Cooper Landing when a landslide pushed debris across the road. Crews worked throughout Sunday to clear the debris and continued the work overnight, the transportation department wrote on Facebook.

Traffic was flagged through one lane Monday afternoon, and transportation department spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy said the road would close again for about an hour at some point on Monday so crews can repair the guardrail.

Full repairs may take two to three days, she said. Drivers should expect delays while the work continues.

The steep area along the roadway was still sloughing on Monday, McCarthy said, and officials are watching for any signs of additional landslide danger.

The storm also caused landslides on the Seward Highway at Mile 21 near Crown Point and Mile 45 before the exit to the Sterling Highway, McCarthy said. The landslides did not cover the entire roadway and crews were able to clear debris relatively quickly, she said.

1 p.m. SterlingHighway MP 50 UPDATE: The highway is open to one lane traffic, under flagged control. Guardrail repairs and clearing are on going, so please expect waits of up to an hour.

Posted by Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities on Monday, November 1, 2021

Earlier story:

A storm that hit Southcentral Alaska on Saturday night led to flooding in Girdwood, a landslide on the Sterling Highway and left thousands of homes without power throughout the region on Sunday morning.

Rain had washed out two Girdwood roadways by Sunday afternoon, rendering them impassable, said Mike Edgington, a co-chair of the Girdwood Board of Supervisors.

More than a foot of rain fell in Girdwood by Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

Precipitation records have been shattered by the atmospheric river event this weekend with the base of Alyeska measuring...

Posted by US National Weather Service Anchorage Alaska on Sunday, October 31, 2021

About 15 homes on Echo Ridge Drive were unreachable after the roadway washed out, Edgington said, and major utilities such as the water treatment plant and transfer station were inaccessible after about 20 feet of Ruane Road collapsed.

Temporary repairs were made Sunday afternoon to Echo Ridge Drive and Edgington said the road was expected to be passable that day. The road had other drainage problems in the past because it is steep and just off the mountains, said Kyle Kelley, the Girdwood Service Area manager.

Some homes in the area could see minor flooding as rain continued into Monday, Edgington said.

The weather service issued a flood warning for Glacier Creek in Girdwood through Monday, National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Kutz said. Glacier Creek did not appear to have risen over the banks on Sunday, Edgington said, and water levels seemed to be decreasing slightly by the afternoon.

On Ruane Road, Edgington said there was roughly a 20-foot collapse in the roadway above a culvert. Repairs to the area will be more major because sewer and gas lines were exposed, Edgington said.

It was not immediately clear when the road would be fixed, Kelley said, but the city hopes to expedite any repairs before snow sets in.

Three employees were at the water treatment plant when the roadway washed out around 6 a.m., Kelley said. Access via the road is not possible, but Kelley said they can get in and out of the area through the Iditarod trail system. The employees have supplies and are safe, he said.

Landslide closes Sterling Highway

The Sterling Highway closed in both directions at Mile 50 near Cooper Landing before 7 a.m. after a landslide spread debris across the two lanes of the roadway, according to the Department of Transportation. Maintenance crews began clearing the debris around 10:40 a.m. but the highway was expected to remain closed until Monday.

The landslide pushed trees and other debris from a slope along the roadway. The transportation department wrote on social media that clearing the debris was a slow process because the slope was still moving and the soil was heavy.

“The roadway remains at high risk of an additional slide and the continuing rain is flowing through the work area,” the department wrote on Facebook. “The surrounding slopes are not stable.”

7:16 a.m. UPDATE: DOTPF Maintenance made progress last night and are expecting to open the highway to one-lane, flagged...

Posted by Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities on Sunday, October 31, 2021

Power outages

Power outages were reported throughout the Southcentral region and thousands of homes were without power early Sunday.

In the Matanuska and Susitna valleys, about 6,250 customers were without power at one point, the Matanuska Electric Association wrote on Facebook. Many of the outages were caused by falling trees downing power lines, the association wrote.

Big thanks to our linemen and contract crews who have been getting these trees out of the lines for over 24 hours straight and are still hard at it. These trees have been falling from outside of our rights-of-way and causing all sorts of damage in this windstorm.

Posted by Matanuska Electric Association on Sunday, October 31, 2021

Nearly 500 customers were reported to still be without power near Willow just before 6 p.m.

Parts of Eagle River, Anchorage and Girdwood had power outages Sunday morning and an outage in Cooper Landing was ongoing Sunday evening.

The Sterling Highway landslide was expected to slow power restoration in Cooper Landing, the Chugach Electric Association wrote on Facebook.

The heavy rain and wind hit the eastern side of the Kenai Peninsula hardest on Saturday and early Sunday and the weather continued up through Anchorage, Kutz said.

Portage received the heaviest rain, with nearly 17 inches falling during the storm, according to the weather service. Rain totals in Portage and Girdwood both broke previous record levels.

Heavy winds were reported throughout the region Saturday night and early Sunday, with gusts up to 70 mph at Potter Marsh in Anchorage and 89 mph in Portage, Kutz said. Gusts were stronger at higher elevations and a gust of 110 mph was reported near Alyeska at about 3,200 feet above sea level, he said.

Southcentral Alaska is expected to experience more wet weather in the next few days, according to the weather service. There is potential for light snow over parts of the region Monday and Tuesday mornings, and a mixture of rain and snow could fall around the Anchorage Bowl and northern Kenai Peninsula.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, focusing on breaking news. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota and previously helped cover the Nebraska Legislature for The Associated Press. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.

Sponsored