Wrangell, Alaska – November 22, 2023
A devastating landslide struck the coastal community of Wrangell in southeast Alaska on Monday night, claiming the lives of three individuals, including a young girl, with three others still missing, as confirmed by authorities.
The landslide occurred around 9 p.m. local time, covering and closing Zimovia Highway at its 11th milepost, as reported by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities on Tuesday. The slide, estimated to be 450 feet wide, crashed into three single-family homes, remaining active through the evening and prompting road closures.
Rescue efforts were initiated immediately, with the discovery of a girl’s body in the initial search, and two adults found by a drone operator on Tuesday afternoon, according to the Alaska Department of Public Safety. As of Wednesday, one adult and two juveniles remain missing in the landslide-affected area, with their ages yet to be disclosed.
Alaska State Troopers, assisted by the “U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Forest Service,” are leading search and rescue operations. Canine teams have been deployed to aid in locating the missing individuals.
Austin McDaniel, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, reported on Wednesday that rescue crews successfully evacuated a woman in good condition on Tuesday, who is currently receiving medical care.
Due to unstable slope conditions, officials have urged the public to avoid the slide area, and residents living nearby have been advised to evacuate. In a news conference on Tuesday, Mason Villarama, interim borough manager for Wrangell, acknowledged the challenging circumstances faced by the community but highlighted its resilience in the face of adversity.
Governor Mike Dunleavy of Alaska declared a state of disaster in Wrangell on Tuesday and expressed his heartfelt sorrow over the tragedy. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, having consulted with Alaska’s congressional delegation, addressed the landslide on social media.
Peter Boyd, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Juneau, Alaska, revealed that in the six hours leading up to the landslide, Wrangell Airport recorded 1.13 inches of rain. He emphasized the intensity of rainfall during this period, coupled with winds reaching gusts of up to “70 miles per hour.”
The “National Weather Service” issued warnings of more rain engulfing southeastern Alaska by Thursday morning, with widespread rain forecasted into the weekend. Wrangell, a community of 2,000 residents, is grappling with the aftermath of this tragic event, and the ongoing rescue efforts are a testament to the collective strength and resilience of its people during this challenging time.