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Mudslides And Washouts Block Alaska Highway

July 14, 1988

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) _ Mudslides up to a mile long and washouts have blocked the only highway between Alaska and the lower 48 states, stranding hundreds of travelers in towns and campgrounds, Canadian highway officials say.

No injuries were reported.

The Yukon Territory and northern British Columbia have been deluged with four to five times their normal rainfall during the first half of July.

The largest of the slides started early Wednesday about 40 miles northwest of Haines Junction, Yukon, more than 200 miles northwest of Juneau, highway officials said.

″It (mud) is about 12 feet high,″ said Yukon highways supervisor Colin Yuelet. ″There’s just over a mile of road that’s under water or mud.″

Yuelet said mud and boulders as big as bulldozers slid from a mountainside across the road and into the south end of Kluane Lake.

Smaller slides and washouts blocked a 43-mile stretch of the Alaska Highway near Muncho Lake in northern British Columbia, said Jim Coxford of the Canadian Public Works Department in Whitehorse.

If the rain continues, clearing the Kluane Lake slide could take up to a week, said Yeulet. He borrowed two bulldozers from a road construction company to handle the project.

Travelers caught between the two areas of slides holed up in the Yukon capital of Whitehorse, about 90 miles southeast of Haines Junction, or were directed to take a much longer route into Alaska through Dawson, Yukon.

On the northwest side of the slide, Canadian customs officials advised tourists entering the Yukon from Alaska to take the longer route or to wait out the slide in about a dozen lodges between the border and the roadblock.

As many as 400 vehicles cross the border daily. Last July, Canadian customs counted 33,512 people driving the highway from Alaska into the Yukon.

″We are as busy as busy can be because the road is now blocked to the north and south of us,″ said Jack Austad, weigh scale operator in Whitehorse. ″We’ve had nothing but people asking questions here all day.″

In Haines Junction, town manager Joanne Feenstra said she was getting ready to open the community hall to travelers.

Jim Steele of the Whitehorse weather station said he drove through the Muncho area Tuesday, dodging small slides and big puddles.

″It was like driving in a lake,″ he said.

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