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Contact: Kathleen Kelly, (907) 683-9504
The Denali Park Road, which closed after a mudslide just west of Eielson Visitor Center more than a week ago, will reopen tomorrow if current weather and area conditions continue and the road remains stable for traffic. Rain is likely for the area according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather forecast, but the amount predicted is not alarming to park managers and experts, and the area of concern has stabilized during the past week.
Park staff are assessing data, gathering scientific evidence and making detailed observations on which to base decisions to help ensure staff and visitor safety. If conditions change and the area becomes unstable, park staff will close the road again to protect human life.
Once open, anyone traveling through the area is requested to drive, cycle or walk past the area cautiously and deliberately, and not linger through the slide area.
The road closed after a mudslide 100 feet wide and 10 feet deep dumped more than 8,000 cubic yards of material at Mile 67 on Saturday, July 30.
Near-record precipitation last month, which saturated the fine-grain ancient volcanic ash, and the steep terrain in the area contributed to this landslide, the largest, but just one of several, so far this summer in the park.
As the permafrost melts and weather events become more intense, occurrences like this may become more common, according to Denali National Park and Preserve Geologist Denny Capps.
Shuttle bus and tour traffic will be allowed through the closure today at 8 am and 6 pm, but should return to normal traffic tomorrow, however, large vehicles with tandem trailers will be unable to pass through the area still because the resulting turning radius on the curve is too narrow.
Several visitors, park staff members and employees of the private lodges west of the mudslide, which occurred between 5:45 and 7 am on Saturday, July 30, were marooned overnight but the park’s road crew worked around the clock to clear one lane of the road by 11 a.m. the next day.
The location of the mudslide, approximately one mile west of the visitor center, meant only travelers to Wonder Lake Campground or staying at the private lodges in the Kantishna area have been affected by the now 10-day closure, which park managers hope will end tomorrow.
Eielson Visitor Center experienced heavy rains throughout July. The area weather station recorded almost eight inches of rain in the week prior to the mudslide and a total 16.5 inches of precipitation for the month.