Early morning landslide causes five-hour Seward Highway closure

Dec 18, 2017

An area better known for rock falls and avalanches was shut down for over five hours Monday morning due to a large landslide. The rock, soil and vegetation closed lanes in both directions of the Seward Highway at Milepost 105, just west of Indian. 

Shannon McCarthy, Department of Transportation Central Region spokeswoman, says the highway was reopened at about noon.

“I see a lot of rockslides along that section of highway, but we don’t typically see a lot of areas which are treed that slide,” she said.

As of noon, McCarthy said the DOT did not yet have an estimate of the volume of the landslide, but described it as sizable. 

“It actually took out 150 feet of our guardrail, and deposited debris onto the railroad tracks, although it didn’t look like there was a lot of damage to the railroad track. In areas where it was about four-feet deep, it covered about 75-feet of road,” she said.

The rapidly-changing weather over the past week may have played a part in the landslide. Warm temperatures and rain last week were replaced with freezing temperatures overnight.

“Definitely very brisk this morning,” McCarthy said. “So we think that the freeze-thaw cycle contributed to it. It was an area that had a lot of water flowing underneath the soil.”

McCarthy said the slide occurred right at shift-change for the Turnagain Arm road crews, which helped the quick response and clean up. Work continued into the afternoon shoring up the hillside.