Rock slides close the North Douglas Highway

A rock slide blocks the road on the North Douglas Highway in Juneau, Alaska on Sunday, April 10, 2022. (Photo courtesy of the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities)

Juneau residents will have to hold off on the North Douglas bonfires for a couple days — the North Douglas Highway is closed because of a because of a rock slide.

One lane on the highway is open for emergency vehicles, but it is closed to the public past the North Douglas boat launch. 

Alaska Department of Transportation spokesperson Sam Dapcevich said the start of the slide was at around 500 feet of elevation, and he doesn’t know yet when it will be safe to open the road.

“When material comes loose from that height, it builds up quite a bit of speed by the time it gets down to the road. So we’re keeping the road closed at this time,” he said.

A geologist will be going up to the start of the slide to see if more rocks could come down, Dapcevich said. They also want to get a drone up there to look around, but they won’t be able to do that until winds die down.

It’s the second rock slide on North Douglas in the past week. Both rock slides happened in the same spot on the North Douglas Highway: one on April 6 and a second on April 10.

Footage of the April 6 slide has been shared widely on social media.

Dapcevich said the first slide was substantial, but DOT was able to clear debris and open the road in a day. Sunday’s rock slide was bigger.

“This time the rocks actually made it all the way across the roadway. Some of them even made it down into the water nearby,” he said. “And some of the boulders I’m told are the size of cars.”

Nobody was hurt in either slide, and no cars were damaged. Dapcevich said to not try and climb around the slide because they aren’t sure how dangerous it is or if more rocks could come down. 

The City and Borough of Juneau’s Emergency Manager Tom Mattice said the melting and freezing of water this time of year can make slide conditions worse.

“That water melting and freezing and melting and freezing acts like a jackhammer on the rock that it slowly breaks it apart,” Mattice said.

Mattice said that once rocks have slid in an area, it will be unstable there for a while. So even after the road is clear, people shouldn’t linger underneath the area of the slide anytime soon. 

Lyndsey Brollini

Local News Reporter

I bring voices to my stories that have been historically underserved and underrepresented in news. I look at stories through a solutions-focused lens with a goal to benefit the community of Juneau and the state of Alaska.

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