HATCHER PASS — Dangerous avalanche conditions have subsided enough that the Department of Transportation has reopened Hatcher Pass Road after two separate closures in the last five days.
On March 26, a large, remotely triggered avalanche covered Hatcher Pass Road and DOT Avalanche specialists responded to monitor the snowpack. DOT reopened the road just hours after the avalanche that day and then closed the road on the night of March 29 out of caution, which reopened on the morning of March 31.
“They did get a lot of snow and once again Anchorage just got dusted but that Hatcher Pass area got over 12 inches of snow so they were up there at first light on Monday morning and the slide area that they were worried about was very concerning. The snowpack was very unstable so they did shut the road down on Monday,” said DOT spokesperson Shannon McCarthy. “It was essentially a 48 hour closure but by today there had been some natural activity in the slide area that they were concerned about so it had let go a lot of the extra material, debris, snow that it was holding.”
On March 26, DOT used a loader to remove the dense avalanche snowpack from the road and clear parking lots. McCarthy said that DOT avalanche specialists traveled from Girdwood to Hatcher Pass to inspect the snowpack and encouraged residents to call and alert DOT if avalanches cover the road in any area of the state.
“People were really patient with this last closure, they understood why we were doing it. We don’t want people on that road when avalanches are coming down and we don’t want people trapped so I think people appreciated that we communicated as early and often as we could,” said McCarthy.
On March 30, the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center issued a forecast with the most significant level of avalanche danger all winter, posting a rating of considerable avalanche danger for all elevations due to storm slabs, persistent slabs and dry loose. HPAC staff skinned up Marmot following the reopening of Hatcher Pass Road on March 31 to inspect the snowpack and witnessed five to six different significant collapses up to two feet and cracking 50 feet wide.
“It will be likely to trigger avalanches today at all aspects and all elevations. Natural avalanches will be possible. 6″ of snow has fallen so far and up to 16″ are expected today through Tuesday with temperatures increasing throughout the storm,” wrote HPAC forecaster Allie Barker. “South winds are predicted tp increase with gusts up to 25 mph throughout the storm. Expect the avalanche danger to rise for Tuesday if winds increase combined with additional new snow throughout the day.”