The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities drops explosives via helicopter to trigger controlled avalanches above Thane Road Tuesday afternoon. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities drops explosives via helicopter to trigger controlled avalanches above Thane Road Tuesday afternoon. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Explosives used to reduce avalanche risk

Mission comes ahead of expected heavy snowfall.

Following a record-breaking winter storm late last week, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities successfully reduced avalanche risk along Thane Road Tuesday afternoon. The effort came just as another storm is in the forecast.

[14.3 inches of snow in Juneau sets new record]

According to the department spokesperson Sam Dapcevich, the avalanche specialists were able to trigger several smaller avalanches using explosives to address the overall snow accumulation from this winter and reduce the likelihood of larger destructive avalanches.

He said though some of the slides came close to the road, none caused too much obstruction on the road and did not require much cleaning. He said the transportation department will likely conduct at least one more mission to reduce avalanche risk during the winter season.

The mission occurred during the same time the National Weather Service Juneau extended a winter storm warning going into effect from midnight to midnight Wednesday with a forecasted snowfall between 8 and 15 inches.

According to NWS meteorologist Sean Jones, the first burst of heavy snow will likely hit Juneau in the early hours of Wednesday morning followed by another burst in the afternoon. Along with the initial front, Jones said residents can expect some stronger winds — as high as 35 mph as the front pushes in— however, he said the winds should be relatively short-lived.

“The primary thing is to be aware that with this heavy snowfall travel could be especially difficult, so plan ahead or just make sure to give yourself extra time if you need to be out on the roads,” he said.

Juneau Emergency Programs Manager Tom Mattice said though the avalanche risk was classified as moderate on Tuesday, there is still a continued risk for avalanche.

He encouraged residents to pay close attention to the forecast in the coming days and reduce the amount of time they are in hazardous zones.

“With the nature of the volumes of the storm and winds recently, we have the potential to build avalanche conditions rapidly,” he told the Empire. “When avalanche risks are heightened, people need to limit their time in avalanche terrain, and as a community, the more we know the safer the snow.”

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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