Major landslide in Wrangell takes out homes, at least three have died, three are missing

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Landslide in Wrangell, Nov. 20, 2023. Photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard

Update: There are three known dead in the landslide, one is a child; three are missing– two adults and a child. Rescue efforts are difficult due to continuous sliding, with the slide being about 500 feet wide. Rain on Monday totaled about three inches in Wrangell. Dozens of homes are still without power beyond the slide zone.

A major landslide at about destroyed homes in Wrangell on Monday around 9 pm. Troopers and other agencies responded to the slide near Mile 11 of the Zimovia Highway. Three are known to have died, and three are missing. Three homes were in the direct path of the slide.

“A preliminary survey determined that three single-family residences were directly in the path of the landslide. The first responders started a hasty search to look for survivors. The body of one deceased individual was located during the search. Multiple individuals are believed to have been within the slide area when the landslide occurred and are believed to be missing. The Alaska State Troopers have assumed command of the search and rescue effort,” Troopers said in a statement Tuesday morning. Two minors and an adult are still missing, as of Wednesday morning.

Wrangell landslide. Photo credit: Alaska Department of Transportation.

A major winter storm has been battering Southeast Alaska with torrential rains in southern portions and snow in Juneau and northern Lynn Canal. Juneau’s Thane Road has been under an avalanche alert during this weather event.

“Our local search and rescue team is working with the Alaska State Troopers, USCG, USFS, local contractors, city staff and DOT in a concerted effort to sift through and clear debris. A large-scale search and rescue effort cannot be done at this time as the site is extremely hazardous and unstable. A state geologist will have to come in to assess the site to ensure conditions are safe before proceeding with a full-scale effort,” the City of Wrangell wrote on Facebook.

“We ask that public direct all important questions/concerns/inquiries to Mason Villarma, Interim Borough Manager at (360) 981-1010. If you are calling to report a missing person, please call the Wrangell Police Department at (907) 874-3304. We will provide periodic updates of our ongoing search and rescue mission. The next update will be at 9am AKDT.”

Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a verbal disaster declaration on Tuesday. Dunleavy said, “Rose and I are heartbroken by this disaster and we pray for the safety of all those on site and offer all the resources our state has available.”

The main slide measured about 200 feet wide, and was active throughout the night. Water taxis are being used available to help those on the south end navigate to the other side of the slide area. Zimovia Highway is closed to all highway traffic south of 6-Mile, the state Department of Transportation announcement said. Trident Seafoods is offering its bunk house for emergency housing, and businesses around town are offering free food, coffee, and shelter. Schools are closed on Wednesday.

The Department of Transportation is bringing in additional personnel and drone equipment Tuesday from Juneau. This story will be updated.

26 COMMENTS

  1. Waiting to hear about a landslide in Prince William Sound that will cause a tsunami. Watching all of the earthquakes and “ice quakes” around that area that are shaking and moving.

  2. And I had the nerve to complain about my electricity being out here in Wasilla for 11 hours! This story put my situation in perspective in a quick heart beat. I will be praying for these people for sure.

  3. Horrible for a small tight knit community
    Lived in Wrangell for years in the 80’s and the folks there are great
    RIP to all hit by this and families affected

  4. Pray for the people of Wrangell. Alaskans are a hardy bunch, we all came together in 64 before any help arrived and we’ll keep doing it.

    • There are clues, but you gotta keep constant tabs on the areas in question. Wrangell just doesn’t have the people to do it.

      Here is SE we’re so used to rain, there is a tendency not to take the effects of it seriously.

      Usually landslides are like earthquakes. Almost no tangible warning.

  5. Saw some news coverage of this in the morning Channel 2 Anchorage news. Also had high winds there in Wrangell. Praying they find some survivors but fearing the worst. Such a beautiful area to have to have this happen. Maybe the whole area needs to be surveyed by a geologist to see where it is safer to build. Hope they get help to the surviving families right away.

  6. Terrible because there are no warnings. Any death is tragic but luckily it didn’t hit a more populated area.

  7. Landslide Blog is a decent resource for landslide reports worldwide. Has a piece up on this slide this morning. Cheers –

    ‘https://eos.org/thelandslideblog/the-deadly-20-november-2023-landslide-near-wrangell-in-alaska-usa

  8. I have heard nothing about whether this area has in the past been identified as a high risk area. Seems like with all of the resources available that it might have been surveyed for such hazards.

  9. And Anchorage is lucky our little tragedy is just a little snowstorm. These Wrangell homeowners their tragedy is life changing.
    Anchorage is still lucky we are still waiting on our Pacific fault line 9.0 earthquake to rock Anchorage a second time for 5 minutes.
    We should try not complain about our little problems. Cause even for Wrangell a landslide is small in comparison of Jewish abductees in the hands of isis Jihad fighters and Hamas fighters. I’d rather survived a landslide losing my house or life than be a terrorist’s prisoner. There is always someone else going through something worse than our problem. The discipline is not complain, pray, read and meditate on God’s Word, and heal and cleanup after the tragedy. The complaining waste our time and efforts toward having a real life.

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