Alaska Officials Say Landslide Danger Remains After Storm

December 8, 2020

HAINES, Alaska (AP) — Officials in southeast Alaska have repeated warnings about possible landslide danger in the community of Haines, where two people remain missing after a large slide last week.

Torrential rain across much of the region caused havoc in many communities, including Ketchikan, where emergency officials announced there was no longer a danger of dam failure.

Searchers were still trying to find two people reported missing after a massive landslide crashed into Haines last Wednesday.

The community of about 2,500 people experienced several landslides, which followed a deluge of about 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) of rain over two days.

The largest slide was estimated at about 600 feet wide (183 meters) and took out four homes while pushing debris to the water line. Authorities initially said six people were missing, but revised the count Thursday when four people were found safe.

David Simmons and Jenae Larson were those identified as still missing.

Simmons, newly hired to lead the city’s economic development corporation, lives in one of the four destroyed homes.

Larson, a recent University of Idaho graduate, is in her first year as a kindergarten teacher in her native Haines and rents an apartment above Simmons’ garage.

Haines residents were warned about potential evacuations over the weekend as weather conditions deteriorated and the risk of landslides remained high.

The Haines Borough government on Saturday night cautioned about a third of the residents to be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. The Haines Emergency Operations Center said the notice remained in effect Sunday.

Up to 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) of rain was expected by Monday morning and warmer temperatures were expected to melt new snowpack. The combined runoff could further erode hillsides and cause additional avalanches, officials said.

The Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center said in a statement Saturday that evacuated residents were permitted to return home after rainfall slowed and the water level at Ketchikan Lakes fell to about 349 feet (106 meters).

Alaska Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy declared a state of emergency Saturday for communities affected by the severe storm that led to landslides, flooded buildings and roads, downed trees and caused power outages.

More than 12 southeast communities reported damages and the need for disaster recovery assistance, the governor’s office said.

About the photo: This photo provided by the Alaska National Guard shows an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter conducts search and rescue in Haines after a major landslide Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. The search continued Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, for two people missing after a massive landslide crashed into a town in southeast Alaska, leaving a neighborhood mired in mud and felled trees stretching to the waterfront, the mayor said.

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