HATCHER PASS — The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities will drop explosives from a helicopter on April 16 to clear the remaining dangerous snow on the slopes in Hatcher Pass.
Hatcher Pass Road has been closed between mile 14 and mile 10 since April 3 and has remained closed due to five avalanches that came down over the Easter weekend, covering portions of the road.
“We’re going to be dropping some charges so we can bring down any loose snow in the areas that our operators have to clear,” said DOTPF spokesperson Shannon McCarthy. “As soon as they redone dropping the charges shaking out anything that’s going to shake out our operators are going to be standing by. They’ve already pre staged the equipment and they’ll be getting to the equipment and starting to clear immediately.”
The helicopter mission will only be conducted once DOTPF can confirm that no people are in the area and the road clearing that will follow is expected to take several days. Heavy equipment owned by DOTPF has already been staged to prepare for use, which will likely take several days.
“Our avalanche specialists still believe that the risk is fairly high actually. Particularly when it comes to heavy equipment working in the area because of course it’s big, it’s loud, it’s vibrating the surrounding area so we consider the risk still to be fairly high for the road,” said McCarthy. “It’s possible we could open on Sunday but it’s more likely to be on Monday. Because so much snow fell we probably want to do a little bit of cleanup for people so they can get into parking lots.”
McCarthy had been told by DOTPF avalanche specialists that such an active spring avalanche season had not been seen in Hatcher Pass in decades. The first major avalanche that closed the road occurred March 26 prior to the April 3 closure.