Train meets avalanche south of Girdwood

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No one was injured when a 3,144-foot freight train belonging to the Alaska Railroad ran into an avalanche about three miles south of Girdwood on Tuesday morning and derailed.

The train had left Whittier at about 1 am heading north, when it ran into the avalanche field at about 1:58 am. The Girdwood Fire Department responded with seven firefighters to the train derailment at 2 am. A rescue team, including three Girdwood firefighters, Alaska Department of Transportation workers, and the Alaska Railroad, assessed the risk and then crossed the avalanche field and made it to the train, where the three train employees who were on the train were able to self-extricate and were escorted back to the Seward Highway for evaluation by Girdwood medics. Avalanche mitigation work is under way from 9 am to about 4 pm by the Alaska Department of Transportation and will cause intermittent delays of 45 minutes or more along the Seward Highway.

Meanwhile, the Alaska Railroad is assessing the situation to determine how it will get the derailed cars back on the tracks. Two cars were completely derailed and a third was partially derailed, sources said.

Turnagain Arm, where the avalanche took place, is a hazardous avalanche zone.

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