ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A massive avalanche more than 300 feet wide knocked out power and cut off access to dozens of homes on Thursday, forcing the mayor of Anchorage to issue a disaster declaration.
The Anchorage Police Department said their officers found areas around Hiland Road buried under more than 40 feet of snow but did not find anyone trapped in the avalanche.
Because of the unstable nature of the slide, authorities warned snow removal could take several days, and the American Red Cross has opened up a nearby shelter for residents.
City officials have been working to determine the dangers that remain above the area where the avalanche took place and found that a slab of snow that remains does in fact pose a danger to residents below.
An incident command team is now evaluating leaving the slab in place or whether it should be brought down in a controlled manner.
A decision has not yet been made.
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"It’s all hands on deck, and we’re doing everything we have to do to take care of the people on the other side and get this road back open. We’re looking at a possible snowmobile route around and creating a shuttle system on the other side of the valley," Mayor Dave Bronson said.
Authorities have not stated how many homes were damaged during the avalanche but said around 100 residences were cut off from the main roadway.
The Last Frontier is no stranger to seeing avalanches.
Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources said slides form when the snowpack no longer sticks to the side of a mountain and are most common after a storm drops new snow.
Meteorologists warn avalanche dangers remain elevated through the region, and the forecast for additional snow could enhance the risks.