A winter snow storm along with two morning avalanches created extremely dangerous driving conditions and closed the Seward Highway between Bird and Girdwood Tuesday.
DOT said the Bird-Girdwood stretch of the road would remain off-limits until at least noon on Wednesday. The closure originally extended from Potter Marsh at Mile 115 to Girdwood at Mile 90, but officials reopened the highway from Potter Marsh to Bird at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
"They’re just yelling at you, 'turn your car around! go back into the parking lot,'" said Ken Harris, a driver who wasn't going anywhere.
Highway conditions were reported to be white-out conditions with little to no visibility, drifting snow and severe winter storm conditions.
"You can’t see anything," said Mike Vendenbos, a plow driver for Chugach State Park, who reported 90 mph gusts and said multiple cars were stuck in snow along the highway, "this is the worst storm i’ve ever been in."
The avalanches occured in the McHugh Creek area and slide debris affected the northbound lane. Travel was reduced to one lane in certain areas.
DOT triggered an avalanche at milepost 89.5, just north of Bird Point. The slide left a substantial amount of debris along the road, which crews spent the afternoon cleaning up. Additional avalanche mitigation will continue Wednesday, the department said.
According to DOT, Portage Valley had similar conditions which forced the closure of the Whittier Tunnel.
- In the Kenai Peninsula, road conditions are extremely dangerous area-wide due to the storm.
- Anchor Point received 8 to 10 inches of snow with 30 miles per hour.
- Seward had over a foot of snow with 40 miles per hour winds and extreme blizzard conditions.
- Schools and offices were closed in Homer due to 60 miles per hour winds and 6 to 7 foot snow drifts.
- In Kodiak, the airport was closed after reported rain on ice conditions.
DOT has advised people to avoid driving in these areas and to expect extremely difficult wintertime conditions.
For current road conditions, visit DOT’s 511 website or call 511.