The Department of Transportation has now cleared the road through the slide debris that covered the road on Zimovia Highway. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Transportation)


Wrangell road crews continue to work on filling in the downhill side of the slide zone area on Zimovia Highway.

Sam Dapcevich, Department of Transportation’s, or DOT’s, Public Information Officer, said that the shoulder will serve as a second lane while crews pour concrete.  

“By widening it, we’re creating access for two lanes of traffic while we work on the concrete lanes that are going to be installed over the next couple of weeks,” he said. “This is a little disclaimer: this is all weather dependent.”

Dapcevich said that the concrete pour for the first lane will happen on Dec. 21 or 22..

As the lane cures, he said DOT will open up two lanes on Zimovia Highway and people will have 24/7 access to the road over the Christmas and likely through the New Year’s holidays.

“We’ll be able to open up Zimovia to two lanes with regular traffic on Saturday morning,” he said. “That will remain open at least through the holiday weekend, possibly a little longer, depending on when we’re able to start working on the second concrete lane.”

He said the second concrete lane pour could happen after New Year’s. After that, road access will go back to permitted time allotments.

Dapcevich also said that Pat’s Creek Road should open up on Saturday, December 23rd, as it is currently blocked off.

“I heard Mason let us know that people want to get up there and collect firewood and possibly other activities,” Dapcevich said. “So we’re working to get that open back up.”

He also said that the drone-in-a-box location now has power and anticipates that it will be up and running before the holidays. The drone will be used to survey the area on a regular basis.


Tuesday was stormy in Southeast Alaska with a flood watch and high winds.  Another storm is expected today but forecasters say it’s not supposed to be as severe. 

Mason Villarma, Wrangell’s interim city and borough manager says Wrangell’s landslide zone was in good shape after Tuesday’s storm. And he says they’re paying close attention to the next storm. He says they will be cognizant of the slope due to the saturation of the soil from the rain over the last couple days.

“It was reported at two inches of rainfall at the airport, but three inches plus out of the slide site over the last 36 hours,” Villarma said. “So that’s a significant amount of rainfall, similar to the amount that was experienced on the November 20 slide date.” 

The Department of Transportation will install new weather monitoring equipment at the slide site in the next couple weeks that will measure the rain and wind.

Depending on their monitoring, Villarma says the City posted the road access schedule at the end of Wednesday. 

Villarma says that a 72-inch culvert will be installed this weekend to help with debris flow.

Sam Dapcevich, with the state Department of Transportation, says the road will be down to one lane for the installation. 

“I believe it’s going to require single lane openings, so they’ll they’ll have flaggers,” he said. “They’ll take people through the pilot car in one direction and then bring them back through in the other direction so there won’t be two way traffic during that time.” 

During Tuesday evening’s Assembly meeting, Villarma talked about the beginning stages of an online landslide advisory system. 

He says that the platform will show when there is a higher landslide risk, given the current weather conditions.

He also says that the two weather stations and the drone-in-the-box that the city is expecting will be tied into the platform.

Villarma plans to  meet with Lisa Busch from the Sitka Science Center today to talk about Sitka’s landslide advisory system. 

UPDATE Dec. 12

Road crews added another 36-inch culvert Monday to Wrangell’s landslide area 11 miles south of town on the Zimovia Highway to prepare for the upcoming inclement weather. High winds and heavy rain are forecast for much of Southeast through Wednesday morning.

Sam Dapcevich, with the state Department of Transportation, says the culvert will add more capacity for runoff to make its way to the ocean. He says that debris flow basins were recently constructed and they filled up during Friday night and Saturday’s rain storm.

“During the last storm event on Friday night and Saturday, those basins filled up with multiple truckloads worth of runoff debris from the hillside like silt and mud,” he said. 

The highway at the slide site will be closed Tuesday and possibly Wednesday, depending on the weather. 

Dapcevich says the next step is to install a 72-inch culvert that DOT obtained from the U.S. Forest Service and after that installation crews will start pouring concrete, which will take a few days to cure per lane.

He says that it will take about three weeks for the whole process to be completed, but that will depend on the weather.

“If we keep having these storms, you know in succession, or if it gets really cold, that could change the timeline a bit, but that’s what we’re looking at right now,” he said.

During the concrete work, flaggers are expected to help direct traffic for driving through the area. Mason Villarma, Wrangell’s interim borough manager, says that the road will only be open to permit holders.

“We don’t want any undue stress and traffic out there,” Villarma said. “So just really keeping those lanes available for the folks that need it out there, trying to prevent any of the looky loos in. There’s a lot of pictures and videos on our website for folks that are curious and what’s going on out there.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the State of Emergency Operations Center are in Wrangell this week for the preliminary damage assessment.

Villarma says they will look at damages for those affected by the landslide. He says for the Borough, he calculated over $480,000 in expenses.

The preliminary damage assessment will focus only on mile marker 11 and the nearby staging areas. They will consider three categories including debris clearing and removal, emergency procedures, and utility replacement.

Villarma also said that the city will potentially develop an online platform similar to the Sitka Landslide Risk website

This could help revitalize emergency operation plans and hazard mitigation.

But they are in the beginning stages and still need to set up a preliminary meeting first.


Road crews in Wrangell are getting as much done as they can before the impending storm arrives Friday evening. They worked through the midday permit allotment time today, resulting in the road not being open for permit holders.

This evening the road will be open for 90 minutes for permit holders, between 4 and 5:30 p.m.

Shannon McCarthy with the state Department of Transportation says they are installing a 36-inch culvert on Friday that will convey water under the road.

She says DOT is concerned about the approaching storm and higher winds and there will be no access to pass through the slide zone on Saturday.

“The reason why we’re pulling off the road and closing is it’s at an abundance of caution,” she said. “Our foremen are ready to go and they have equipment that are ready to clear anything that should hit the road. So we’re getting ready and just closing that road.” 

Crews are also rebuilding the downhill side of the road where the landslide eroded the six-inch shoulder and became a drop off. Additionally, they are stabilizing the uphill side by using rock to armor it.

Mason Villarma, Wrangell’s Interim Borough Manager, says there is no definite timeline for when the road is fully accessible.

“I think I just want to create reasonable expectations for folks that we’re looking at weeks here still for complete open access,” he said. “So obviously we don’t have a definitive timeline because we’re subject to a lot of different variables right now, but we’re working in partnership with DOT to do the best job we can and get open access as fast as we can.”

Community members expressed concern over a previous landslide behind a neighborhood at Zimovia Highway’s mile marker three.

Villarma says the team has been surveying that slope as well.

“There may be some residual debris that’s come down the existing slide just at the road – the old logging road at the top of there,” he said. “Nothing significant to note as of now but we are continuing to monitor it via drones with staff on the ground and I mean, we’re working with DGGS to kind of understand a long term approach for monitoring and mitigation.”

He says people should be aware of their surroundings during storms. This includes listening for cracking trees and looking for water that’s been rerouted or not appearing anymore.

Villarma says to call the Wrangell Police Department if anyone notices these happenings.

In other news, there will be a virtual town hall meeting Saturday morning at 10 a.m. that will be aired on Face Book Live and can be found at the City and Borough of Wrangell’s Face Book page. KSTK will also broadcast it.

A panel of experts will deliver up to date information and answer community questions regarding what is being worked on post landslide.


Road crews in Wrangell are starting to prep the damaged area of Zimovia Highway for a concrete pour this week. The 11-mile section of the highway was covered by a landslide that took five lives on November 20. One person remains missing.

Shannon McCarthy with the state Department of Transportation says much was accomplished over the weekend.

“Work really progressed yesterday, in terms of the site, especially from that Northern end with the tree removal,” she said. “So we were able to remove enough debris that we can actually start the the rock slope stabilization on that side, and then the northern side. That is going to be really an improvement in terms of safety.”

DOT is sending a drone-in-a-box to Wrangell, which is a high-tech drone that can be operated from far away. McCarthy says it will have the capacity to survey other areas farther away from the slide.

Wrangell residents are still on high alert a few weeks after the tragedy. Around 11 pm Sunday night, emergency dispatch received a call from a resident at the 3-mile neighborhood who may have heard something fall down the slope there.

Mason Villarma is Wrangell’s Interim Borough Manager. He says he and the fire chief surveyed the area after the call and didn’t see anything.

“I know that there’s been some information circulating on Facebook that this might be a new slide,” Villarma said. “I want to ensure folks that it’s in fact not. And we are working with the state to continue monitoring that with drones. At this time, there’s been no changes as a result of last couple weeks.”

He says that the fire department is looking to purchase other drones to assist with monitoring the 3-mile area and beyond. Villarma also urges residents to sign up for Nixle, which sends out emergency alerts to community members.

Registration can be found at At the upper right corner the Nixle registration tab is in the “How Do I…?” button.


Villarma says that not many residents have applied for State Individual Assistance and encourages people to do so if they were affected.

Desiree Chambers, an emergency management specialist with Homeland Security, can assist people until Friday, Dec. 8 by appointment only. She can be reached at 907-428-7030.

Two school concerts will be held in Wrangell this week on Tuesday, Dec. 5 and Thursday, Dec. 7.

Additional time slots – between 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. – to pass through the slide zone will be added on those days if residents south of the area intend to go to the concerts.

The regular time intervals are from 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m., noon to 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wrangell’s City Hall said that southside residents who want to pass through the slide zone during the allotted times must pick up a permit at the City Hall building or with a police officer stationed on the south side. City Hall opens at 8 a.m.

UPDATE Nov. 30
The state Department of Transportation has made some progress in monitoring and mitigating possible future landslides in Wrangell.

Shannon McCarthy, who is a spokesperson for DOT, says they are working on placing a weather station near the slide zone with the help of the U.S. Forest Service. She says this data would be shared with the community.

“That would enable us to ascertain, you know whether you’ve gotten a ton of rain out that area or you’re experiencing higher winds,” she said.

She says they are also working on a semi-permanent survey mechanism called a drone-in-a-box. 

The drone is currently in Juneau. DOT is working with a power company to recharge the drone so they’ll be able to launch it remotely. Once all preparations are completed, DOT will be able to use the drone in Wrangell to monitor the slide area’s stability and survey up and down Zimovia Highway.

As for road maintenance, McCarthy says that DOT will have to wait for warmer and dryer weather for some work – like repairing asphalt that was damaged in the slide.

“There’s no asphalt plant in Wrangell, so the path to the area where the asphalt was damaged would have to wait until the spring or summer to get that fixed up,” she said. “Obviously this is an area that we want to monitor frequently and that’s why we are looking at bringing the drone in so that we can take a look at the area every day.”

Maintenance crews are still clearing the slide zone debris on Zimovia Highway while DOT and Wrangell police control the traffic in the area.

Residents south of the slide can pass through the zone during three scheduled 30-minute intervals a day.

The time intervals are from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., noon to 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. This Saturday will have an evening time slot from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. due to the town’s Midnight Madness and tree lighting event. Wrangell’s City Hall said that southside residents who want to pass through the slide zone during the allotted times must pick up a permit at the City Hall building or with a police officer stationed on the south side. City Hall opens at 8 a.m.

McCarthy says that within one to two weeks, traffic control will transition to a more normalized flow where people can drive across the slide area with increased hours during the day. 

Once the slope is further stabilized, DOT will have a better idea of how traffic control will work, whether it’s with signage or flaggers. 

Nov. 29, 2023 Update

Power was restored to Wrangell Island’s southside residents on Tuesday but maintenance crews are still removing the debris from the fatal landslide that killed four people on Nov. 20. Two remain missing.

The Department of Public Safety said in a press release that the search in the slide zone is in reactive status, but if any new information exists, the Alaska State Troopers might restart an active search. Scent detection dogs will be available on site for that.

LaNita Copeland is an emergency management specialist with the State Emergency Operations Center. 

She’s assisting community members to apply for State Individual Assistance at Wrangell’s City Hall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Applications opened on Nov. 28 and will close on Jan. 27, 2024.

She says that in emergencies like the landslide, the state tries to replace or give funds for damaged homes and personal property, such as cars and appliances.

“Appliances are often covered, you know, like the refrigerators or the freezers, since subsistence is such a huge thing,” she said. “Not everything that you lose in a disaster will be replaced. But we try to do you know, a reasonable amount that hopefully gets people back on their feet.”

She says that they try to help as many people as they can, but they do have limitations depending on how much a resident was involved in the incident.  Although the program works on a case by case basis, Copeland says individuals who have a home or personal property that was directly damaged from the landslide have the greatest chance of receiving assistance. 

“The only ones that we would assume that they would be the type that would qualify would be the ones where it’s very clear cut,” Copeland said. “Like the family that was very, very close to the slide, and trees took out part of their property.”

People can also apply for assistance at 1-844-445-7131 or online at

The Department of Transportation said that the limited available times for residents to drive through the slide zone will continue for an unknown period as the efforts to remove debris and stabilize the slope carry on. 

The scheduled 30-minute intervals are from 8 to 8:30 a.m., noon to 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 to 4p.m. Wrangell’s City Hall said that southside residents who want to pass through the slide zone during the allotted times must pick up a permit at the City Hall building or with a police officer stationed on the south side. City Hall opens at 8 a.m.

Community members have expressed concern about the integrity of the Wrangell Dam, but the Department of Natural Resources said that the dam does not show signs of failure.

The aerial surveys used to monitor the stability and safety of the slide area will continue. This technique will be used for future mitigation efforts as well.

Mason Villarma, Wrangell’s Interim Borough Manager, is currently in Washington D.C. where he is talking with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Alaska Delegation. 

He said that Wrangell is in a good spot and that the landslide response is moving quicker than expected, although solutions will take some time.

“I don’t think the recovery is the, you know, one week to a couple of months thing. I think it’s going to be, you know, a five year process,” he said.

Villarma is expected to return to Wrangell on Friday.