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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Avalanche Traps Alaska Town Behind 40-foot Wall of Snow; Alaskans Shrug

There's no telling when the road to Valdez will open again.

by: Ted Alvarez

image: Vimeo
image: Vimeo

Alaska is currently in the middle of a record heatwave, but residents of outdoor mecca Valdez might have bigger worries than interrupted shredding: A massive avalanche has spilled into 1,500 feet of the Richardson Highway, blocking the only road into town and sealing the community of 4,000 behind both a 40-foot wall of snow and ice and a giant lake created by the dammed Lowe River. Footage:

Heavy rains are loosing avalanches across the state, with some subdivisions completely cut off from land travel. A crew of bulldozers, excavators, and dump trucks are picking away at smaller blockages, but they can’t free Valdez until the impromptu moat drains away.

It all sounds pretty apocalyptic to us Lower 48 weaklings, but are Alaskans beyond the wall worried? Not really:
Valdez residents are making do with plenty of groceries at their one store, Safeway, and the resumption of regular mail service promised for Wednesday with help from Era Alaska, Pierce said. Residents had been asked not to mail packages.

The Alaska Marine Highway system has added more ferry runs in and out of Valdez. Era Alaska is also adding flights as needed. Meanwhile, people in town are keeping busy. When the road will reopen has become anyone's guess -- literally.

The Valdez Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department on Tuesday announced a "Guess the Road Opener" contest. It runs through Monday. Winner gets a parks package worth more than $100. People stranded at Mile 19 can call in their vote.

Alaskans: Not only do they laugh at icy death, they make a contest out of it. It ain’t called The Last Frontier for nothing.

Read more: Anchorage Daily News

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