Emergency plans in place for Sterling highway travelers

Aug 26, 2019


Emergency officials have developed a transportation plan as firefighting efforts continue to close the Sterling highway for long stretches.

The road was closed overnight for about 20 miles from Watson Lake to the Resurrection Pass trailhead as flames reached the highway and embers blew across the surface.

Community meetings over the weekend addressed the growing concern about how residents can get to and from home or even away from the area altogether should an evacuation be ordered. Borough emergency manager Dan Nelson says additional control points will be added as firefighting activity picks up, including at about milepost 45, at the Sunrise Inn in Cooper Landing.

“This is to make sure folks coming from the north, Anchorage or Seward directions, are able to be stopped and know that there is a longer-term delay without having that traffic stack up within Cooper Landing. If you have business in Cooper Landing or live in that area, you will be allowed past that control point.”

In the event of an evacuation, traffic would be stopped at the intersection of the Sterling and Seward highways, and just west of Sterling so that both lanes could be used to move people.

“For instance, if Cooper Landing hit the Go point and we decided that traffic needed to go northbound, away from the fire to get residents out, both lanes of travel will be turned to northbound lanes. At the Y, traffic would be stopped and prevented from coming on to the Sterling highway going south to allow for both of those lanes of travel. At Bing’s Landing or the Sterling weigh station, a similar control point would occur where traffic would be turned around...so we can get folks out in a quick, safe, efficient manner.”

Members of the National Guard and Alaska State Defense Force are helping with traffic control, and three of those service members suffered minor injuries when their car was struck by a drunk driver early Saturday morning, according to the borough. The latest maps show two main spots where the fire is running south, on either end of Skilak Lake and a push north and east toward Resurrection Pass trail, which has seen significant work for use as a fire break.