An avalanche on the American side of the Klondike Highway has blocked travel through at least 11 a.m. Wednesday, the Alaska Department of Transportation said Tuesday afternoon. Shortly afterward, the Yukon department of highways announced the closure of the Haines Highway due to poor conditions.
Southeast Alaska has been pounded by a pair of storms that have brought high winds and rain to the central and southern panhandle, but at higher elevations and in the northern panhandle, the rain turned to heavy, wet snow.
Coupled with high winds ─ Skagway recorded a wind gust of 55 mph just before noon Tuesday ─ conditions turned dangerous. DOT closed the Klondike Highway at 2 p.m.; the Yukon government closed the Haines Highway at 3 p.m. Alaska Time.
DOT spokesman Jeremy Woodrow said the avalanche on the Klondike Highway was a relatively small one, but it will take time to remove the debris from the roadway and ensure additional uncontrolled slides don’t happen. DOT’s White Pass maintenance station typically uses an Avalauncher-brand device to bring down threatening snow concentrations.
Assuming the highways are cleared Wednesday, Alaska Marine Highway System travelers are not expected to be affected. According to the ferry system’s schedule, the next boat to visit Haines and Skagway will be the Matanuska on Thursday.