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Thread: Valdez to Pump Station 12 - Richardson Highway Closed!

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Default Valdez to Pump Station 12 - Richardson Highway Closed!

    Early this morning, a pair of massive avalanches shut down the Richardson Highway. One up in Thompson Pass and another down in Keystone Canyon. These slides each covered the road in 30 to 40 feet of snow. The Canyon slide effectively dammed off the Lowe River. The Valdez area has been hit hard by warm weather and heavy rains over the last several days. The Lowe River below the canyon is under a Flash Flood Warning due to already high water levels and the high potential of flash flood when the avalanche dam breaks loose. The Alpine Woods area (Richardson MP 10) has been requested to evacuate in to the city of Valdez until the danger has passed.

    DOT determined it was too dangerous to attempt to clear the avalanches and evacuated their people out of the area. The highway is shut down from MP 12 up to MP 65 at the DOT station just south of Pump Station 12. The highway is expected to be closed through the weekend.

    http://www.ci.valdez.ak.us/civicalerts.aspx?AID=362

    http://511.alaska.gov
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    This is one time I am happy I do not live in the Alpine Woods SBDV any longer!

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    It's really bad. Just saw photos from the helicopter fly over about 4 hours ago. It was the chute at the north end of the canyon and the entire valley is blocked. The Lowe has formed a lake behind a 40-foot deep and couple hundred yard long snow dam. The highway is under water all the way up to the bridge. It has filled up to nearly the top of the snow and will probably start to break over the snow pile sometime during the night. When that happens, there is going to be some serious mother nature havoc going on. I guess we'll see how good their highway repair after the 2006 flood holds up to a 40-foot wall of water. I don't see them having the highway open for several days. They can't work on removing snow while all that water is backed up.
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    Moderator Daveinthebush's Avatar
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    The ice d a m started breaking a few minutes ago..... what ever is going to happen will happen within the next half hour at my place.

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    Put on your float coat and wool socks! Too bad it's happening in the dark. Would be really cool to have some video of this happening in the day time.
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    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?f...7920769&type=1

    This pic is looking towards Valdez. The LH side is the rock pit from Harris gravel. The slide is on the right. The **** is about a 40-50 feet high.

    Vietnam - June 70 - Feb. 72
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    Old railroad tunnel saves the day... sorta. Today's overflight shows the water level down a little bit and the old railroad tunnel on the last corner of the canyon is carrying the watershed load around the avalanche pile. Kind of a two-edge sword though. It's letting the Lowe River spill off at a steady rate rather than having a catastrophic release of the snow dam. However, the steady runoff means that the snow dam will hold for a much longer time and DOT can't clear out the snow to reopen the highway. At some point, they have to get the Lowe River flowing back in the proper channel and below the elevation of the highway right next to it. Only then can a 40-foot tall pile of snow start to be moved off the highway.

    They think there is a runoff tunnel already formed under the snowpile in the riverbed and it is letting the water go, slowly, down the river channel. If that is true, the water will eventually drop enough for them to get to the avalanche. Right now, crews are positioned about a half-mile north of the avalanche at the Lowe River bridge and can't get any closer due to the newly formed "Lowe Lake" that has filled up the whole valley.

    Current DOT speculation on a reopening of the highway is Tuesday.
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    KVAK says there was another bigger avalanche today (Saturday). Anyone have any further information?

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    Yep. Another slide that is reported by DOT guys on site to be bigger than the first one came down about 2 hours ago. We'll see what it looks like after another fly over tomorrow.
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    FLOOD WATCH ISSUED FROM NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE 1/24/14 - 6:57pm
    Flash flood watch is in effect through late Sunday morning along the Richardson Highway from Keystone Canyon through Milepost 5.
    *Another avalanche has blocked the Lowe River in Keystone Canyon causing a large backup of water behind it. This new lake is filling rapidly and is already larger than the one on Friday. A flash flood may occur when the avalanche dam releases. This may occur with little or no warning.

    ANOTHER AVALANCHE COMES DOWN IN THOMPSON PASS
    UPDATE FROM CITY OF VALDEZ - Saturday 6:40pm

    According to City Clerk Sheri Pierce, the Department of Transportation was working to try to clear the massive avalanche that came down in Thompson Pass and another avalanche came down. No one was hurt, but according to Pierce the 2nd avalanche was even larger than the first. The City is opening the School Shelter in town for those in Alpine Woods wanting to voluntarily evacuate. Animal Shelter open for pets. Pierce explained that water is building behind the 2nd avalanche, "and basically we're in the same position we were in last night".

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    Wish there was some way we could swap weather with the East Coast right about now. But at least it has dropped to freezing point for the first time in a week and the skies have cleared. Maybe we'll get winter back?
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    Just talked to someone connected to DOT. Crews were clearing out more avalanches to make it safe for the crews to work. Another slide 90-100 feet came down across the valley ****ing up the Lowe River again. Water is backing up again more than before. It may be quite some time before they can remove the mess as now it is turned into a construction project.

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    Be a couple more hours before we fly it again and DOT hasn't been providing very good or prompt updates. However, the Alaska Avalanche Center site for the Valdez region has been keeping up with the posting of information and photos. http://www.valdezavalanchecenter.org/

    The word is that DOT decided to do some artillery work yesterday evening, which was the cause of the new slide that doubled the size of the original snow dam. The temperatures in the area have been in the mid to upper 30's for the last week, but temps had dropped to about 22F as of this morning. Wx report says that isn't going to last and we can expect another warming trend later today with precipitation moving back in tomorrow. Basically, they have a little window today to try and get a hole punched in the dam and let the water out.

    I suggested a couple fishermen with a row boat, a box of dynamite, a bic lighter, and a couple bottles of rum could probably do more than all of DOTs plows and loaders put together. No bites on my idea thus far.
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    Sounds more like they should bring in the Air Force and blast it out. I wonder if thy got the fuel truck out?

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    Considering they are lobbing howtizer rounds at the mountainsides for avalanche control, why not lob a few rounds at the dam? Is it that complicated?

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    Having spent a few years with Uncle Sam playing with gun bunnies (artillery), I can tell you that it is rather complicated.

    Look at this picture (before the depth of the slide was increased by a factor of 3 in the 2nd avalanche)...



    This is the downstream side from inside the canyon. They cannot work from this side. When the dam breaks, all the water is coming this way. The DOT guys are on the other side of the lake that has formed on the opposite side of the dam. They are about a mile away and around a slight corner. I don't know exactly where they were shooting from, but I suspect it was a standard control point by the Lowe river bridge. That site doesn't have direct line of fire on the snow dam. They could move up the highway another mile to get a straight shot, but that would be over a forested area with no line of sight and not from an established avalanche control point. I'm not sure that the DOT guys are equipped to properly establish a new firing point and then compute the new angles for firing on a fairly small and unseen target that is about 3 miles downrange (the 105 has an effective range of about 7 miles, IIRC).

    A 105mm Howitzer fires an HE projectile that contains about 4.8 pounds of TNT. It goes boom, but it's far from a huge boom (basically, it is good for scattering enemy troop positions with shrapnel or sending a little shock wave through a snow slab up on the side of a mountain). With the snow dam boxed in by vertical bedrock walls on both sides, there isn't anywhere for the snow to go when they hit it with a little HE round. It would explode and send a little snow up in the air, and then most of it would settle back down. Given the size of the snow dam, you could sit there all flippin' day with a battery of 6 howitzers and not move the snow far enough or in the right directions to get the water to break loose.

    Any way you look at it, this is a mess.
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    Moderator Daveinthebush's Avatar
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    Wow, that new photo does a good job showing the scale of the new slide. I recognize, from the photos, exactly where the slide is and recall the area well. I had not considered the angle, nor line of sight issues. Sounds like a good opportunity for the militray to take some practice.

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    Update on Avalanches at Keystone Canyon, Road to Remain Closed for at Least a Week

    PRESS RELEASE
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    Sunday January 26, 2014
    2:00 PM
    In response to the avalanches that have occurred at Snow Slide Gulch in Keystone Canyon, the Alaska Department of Transportation (ADOT) continues to conduct avalanche control measures to assure the entire area is stable and safe for clean-up operations. The water build up behind the avalanches is still occurring, though some pressure is being relieved through the old tunnel south of the highway. Due to the severity of the situation, and the amount of snow, water and debris involved, the Richardson Highway will likely remain closed for at least one week, but very possibly longer.
    The City of Valdez is aggressively working with the Marine Highway System to increase ferry traffic to Valdez while the road is closed. The airport and port facilities remain fully functional. The City of Valdez has confirmed that there is plenty of gasoline and heating fuel oil in town to serve local needs during an extended road closure. Should fuel run short at any time, it will be barged in as needed.
    The City of Valdez has also confirmed with Providence Valdez Medical Center that they have sufficient staff and supplies on hand to maintain normal operations throughout this road closure period.
    Safeway has confirmed that food trucks are in route to Valdez via barges arriving today (Sunday January 26th) and then again tomorrow (Monday January 27th). Safeway staff is prepared to work through the night to stock shelves as food and supplies arrive. If the road remains closed they will continue to barge food into Valdez as needed. Some items may take time to be restocked but food and supplies will be available on a regular basis.
    For residents in the 10 mile area (Nordic and Alpine Woods subdivisions), the voluntary evacuation advisory is still in effect until further notice. As of 4:00 PM Sunday (January 26th), the city provided shelter will be moved to the Teen Center and will run for as long as needed. Those who need to drop off pets at the animal shelter please call 835-2286 to make arrangements. The City of Valdez asks residents in both of these subdivisions to be prepared to evacuate immediately in the event of the siren going off in that area.
    Throughout the course of this event, the City of Valdez will send out updates at 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM each day with the current information. Should anything significant happen between those two designated times, additional releases will be provided.
    Posted January 26, 2014
    Holly Wolgamott, Deputy City Clerk/PIO, City of Valdez
    907-200-7002

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    Its amazing to see that Valdez is capable of taking care of itself in this kind of emergency, I don't think other cities in Alaska would handle it so well. I hope the guys down river take the advice and get out of the way of river once the ice-dam decides to give way. This one is going to take a while to clean up.

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