Crews free 300 stranded by landslide

Road closed until state can determine stability in the area

Posted: Tuesday, June 19, 2001

FAIRBANKS - Road workers Monday bulldozed a makeshift roadway across a massive landslide south of Chitina, allowing authorities to evacuate about 300 Copper River dipnetters stranded in the isolated spot.

Authorities escorted vehicles across the rugged 450-foot-long collapsed section three at a time after clearing the slide about 3:40 p.m. Monday. The evacuation was completed Monday night.

Once the motorists south of the slide were evacuated, the road was closed until the state Department of Transportation can evaluate the stability of the slide area.

The 10-mile road along steep Wood Canyon follows part of a historic railroad right-of-way built to haul ore 195 miles from the former copper mine near McCarthy to Cordova. The mine closed in 1938, and the railroad was abandoned. The road now ends a few miles south of the slide area.

The landslide occurred at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday about a mile past O'Brien Creek. A section of the road slid into the Copper River, and tons of dirt and rock collapsed from the steep hillside above.

Between 80 to 90 vehicles and as many as 300 people dipnetting for salmon were trapped by the landslide with no way to get their vehicles out.

No one was known to be caught in the slide, said Rich Webster, forest warden for the Division of Forestry for the Copper River-Glennallen area.

DOT crews used a bulldozer, front-end loader and an excavator to rebuild the roadway.

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