Video – Valdez, Alaska, cut off by avalanche, ice dam and “glacier lake”

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Video shows a flyover of Keystone Canyon and the Lowe River, 1/26/2014.

A glacier-sized avalanche has blocked the river. An ice lake has formed, currently at an estimated depth of 60 feet and growing.

The Richardson Highway is flooded and the town of Valdez cut off from road access. There is some concern as to when and how the lake will release and downstream residents are on evacuation alert. Courtesy Vertical Solutions

Thanks to Josh Cooley in Valdez for this video

“Incredible to be living here in Valdez during this event,” says Josh.  “Luckily my pantry is well stocked, and we are having food shipped in by barge.”

22 thoughts on “Video – Valdez, Alaska, cut off by avalanche, ice dam and “glacier lake””

  1. Naturally, an alarmist has blamed this event on manmade global warming: http://robertscribbler.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/arctic-heat-wave-sets-off-hottest-ever-winter-time-temperatures-major-melt-disasters-for-coastal-and-interior-alaska/
    Meanwhile, in the real world, Valdez still has a four to five foot snowpack in town, ice covered roads, and piles of snow 30-50 feet high. Temperatures have dropped back into the 20s and will be in single digits this week – so much for the “heat wave” and “thaw.” And never mind the 20-40 feet of snowfall above 4,000′ during this event. And lets pretend that Chugach glaciers are not growing. Don’t mention that Valdez has 180″ of snowfall this year. Hide the fact that we were skiing the Chugach well into June last season. Complete rubbish.

  2. Watching the recent video it looks more like a big slide than a glacial advance. It looks like a mountain too steep to hold snow, and ladened with a huge amount of snow this season. It all slid down into the valley, down the chute. Maybe I missed something in the video. They give a very limited look at a big picture. It probably will become a glacier if the colde cycle continues and ice in the valley doesn’t get removed.

    1. In fact, the Chugach Range surrounding Valdez had continuous heavy snowfall since late September before the warm, rainy storm cycle began which triggered the extended avalanche cycle. Reports of a “heat wave” in Alaska are sensational; temps were in the low to upper 30s which for a maritime climate at sea level is not abnormal. What’s happening here has happened before although this was perhaps the biggest slide in the canyon in decades. However, glaciers are growing in the Chugach Range verified by heli-ski guides who fly over the range every year.

    2. Looking at the area in google earth, you can see that there is a hanging glacier above the avalanche area, so I think the slide started at that glacier.

  3. Many Alaska cities are vulnerable to glacier movement. Alaska’s capital, Juno, for example, has a glacier looming above the city. If that glacier moves it could just clean Juno off into the sea. Some other Alaskan cities are equally vulnerable.

    As for being unusually warm, it may be 31 degrees in Anchorage, but that kind of weather is usually where you get the most snow. Warm wet sea air comes in and rises when it hits the coastal mountains. The moisture turns to snow and piles up on the glaciers. They move because they are getting many feet of new snow, not because they are melting.

        1. Looking at the satellite, Richardson highway is a disaster waiting to happen in my opinion. The civil engineers damned up the exit of that glacier to a miniscule (in comparison) hourglass outlet that the highway crosses. As the glacier melts (or even grows and advances) the sudden release of water will create all kinds of issues not to mention avalanches along the glacier drain route creating problems like this one. I believe they need to open up the drain to a wider area and have a longer span of bridge to allow the water to escape easier instead of creating a proverbial pin hole drain. But I am just a mechanical designer and know nothing about civil engineering. Just trying to be logical.

  4. They should of called Gore and had him talk the ice into water before it got that backed up. I would all be melted and drained by now with now at risk.

  5. It is not going to be pretty when that thing lets go. Hopefully it won’t go all at once. Look out below!!

  6. Looks like the start of a new glacier to me. Maybe they need to just relocate the road above all that stuff. They can drain the water, but the more ice that forms in there, the harder it will be to clean out.

  7. A Streetview of Keystone Canyon, Valdez, AK, USA is available on Google Maps & shows Richardson Highway being repaired in September 2011, after sections of it were washed away by the the Lowe River.

    The size of the floodplain downstream from the 4APL1 bridge indicates how colossal the flow can be & the subsequent narrowing under the strategically vital Dayville Road bridge seems to be a choke point.

    It would help to have more information about previous winters, because the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline is laid through Keystone Canyon.


  8. The news about this also mentions it is happening because Alaska has been warmer than usual this year. This warming trend has started melting more of the snow and ice. I have a cousin who lives on Kodiak Island and their days have consistently been in the 40’s in the daytime and 30’s in the evening. In fact, right now, at 7:47 am in Texas, it is 41 deg in Kodiak. Anchorage is 31 deg. It is colder in Houston 29 deg) than it is in Kodiak AND Anchorage. Yet in Ft Worth it is 18 deg, Wichita, KS it is 12 deg. It is like everything shifted to the right this winter.

  9. “concern as to when and how the lake will release and downstream”

    seems odd to me that there is only “concern” about the dam breaking?
    I think they would evacuate the people down stream, if this backs up to a big lake before it breaks, I cant see it ending well.
    Unless they have a slow release plan of some sort,
    would be interesting to know how it is handled and what the outcome is.

  10. I’ve had prophetic visions my whole life that the shit hits the fan won’t be until after 2015.

    9/11 was a premature kick off which almost made an Antichrist but there were still too many people from the older generation that knew the American Constitution the way our forefathers founded it.

    Once 2015 hits and beyond those people will be either dead from age or too old to fight back living on whatever retirements they can scrounge.

  11. I wouldn’t drive THAT road even in my Tundra! Thanks for great video. Makes your respect for nature increase.

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