Avalanche closes Richardson Highway near Valdez

The Richardson Highway closed near Valdez, from mile 12-55, due to an avalanche at mile 39. The avalanche occurred Wednesday at approximately 3:30 a.m., and is an estimated 20 feet deep and 200 feet long.

Crews will start clearing avalanche debris when the weather improves, avalanche risk decreases and it is safe to work in the area. Heavy snowfall and unseasonably warm temperatures are creating prime conditions for additional avalanches.

Tuesday night and into Wednesday, a mix of heavy snow and rain fall in Valdez and the Copper River Basin resulting in very difficult and hazardous driving conditions on the Richardson, Edgerton, Glenn and Tok Cutoff highways. Temperatures ranged in the high-20s to mid-30s.

All available plows and sand trucks were out working to keep roads passable.

The National Weather Service forecasted heavy snow would taper off Wednesday, however light snow would continue into Thursday. The heaviest accumulation was expected in Thompson Pass, with up to 45 inches. Valdez had received 12 inches of snow as of 6:30 a.m. Wednesday and snow continued to fall steady across the region. Another weather front is expected to move in from the gulf Thursday, possibly bringing heavy snow for Thompson Pass with snow and rain in Valdez.

For updated road conditions visit 511.Alaska.Gov or call 511.