Snow and Avalanche Center 2020 Avalanche News

A tanker got mired in avalanche debris in Alaska’s Thompson Pass.
Plow crews just worked around it.


Two truckers weren’t able to stop quickly enough to avoid avalanche debris Wednesday afternoon on the Richardson Highway in Thompson Pass, with one rig getting fully stuck in the snow for hours as plow crews worked around it.

The avalanche occurred about 11 a.m. near Mile 38 of the Richardson Highway, Alaska Department of Transportation spokeswoman Caitlin Frye said.

Neither driver was hurt, and Frye said department reports on the incident state no fuel was spilled.

The trucks weren’t struck by the avalanche but hit the debris. A Crowley Fuels truck heading to Valdez was fully hung up in the snow, which raised its cab several feet off the ground and broke headlights.

DOT closed the highway as workers assessed the situation, Frye said. Amid heavy winds in the avalanche-prone zone, they used projectiles to try to trigger other potential slides. After nothing else was triggered, workers began removing snow from the road.

By 9 p.m., workers were able to open one lane, but the Crowley truck took longer to tow from the highway due to the amount of snow packed around it, Frye said.

“I am always so impressed with our operators,” Frye said. “... Their first goal is to make sure everyone is safe, and they have to be aware of their own safety.”

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