Assembly OKs city's first avalanche response plan

Posted: Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The Juneau Assembly approved the city's first urban avalanche response plan Monday.

The plan, prepared by city staff and the Southeast Avalanche Center, creates a framework for responding to avalanches and provides guidance to first responders in an emergency.

The plan includes a training program for Capital City Fire and Rescue, two Juneau Ski Patrol members and the Juneau Police Department. The training is estimated at $21,725 with an additional $17,400 budgeted for overtime over two years.

City resident Sam Skaggs suggested to the Juneau Assembly that it consider including a line item in the budget to fund the Southeast Avalanche Center on a yearly basis. The center has a $120,000 budget.

Avalanche center director Bill Glude has said he wants to run the facility on a more full-time basis in terms of having specialists available to educate the public and respond to emergencies. Glude is one of four specialists trained to respond to avalanches in Juneau.

Juneau is in an unusual situation because it has one of the largest urban avalanche hazard areas in the United States.

Avalanches have hit, damaged or destroyed at least 72 buildings within a 10-mile radius of downtown Juneau in the past century.

The plan identifies a combined threat from the Behrends Avenue subdivision path near Juneau-Douglas High School, the White subdivision path about a mile north of the school and the paths emptying onto Thane Road. The avalanche zone misses the high school by about 100 feet.

A large avalanche could destroy buildings and sweep vehicles off highways or even destroy Aurora Harbor, according to the plan. It could block Glacier Highway and Egan Drive, possibly cutting off Bartlett Regional Hospital.

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