Crews reopen Denali park road; stranded tourists leave

AP National News

This May 27, 2016, photo shows a tourist bus near Polychome Pass on the only road inside Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Park officials on Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, closed the park road at Mile 30 of the 92-mile road after a culvert washout and several mudslides in the area surrounding Polychome Pass and Eielson Visitor Center created unsafe conditions. Park officials say 300 tourists were inside the park, on the other side of the road closure (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

DENALI NATIONAL PARK, Alaska (AP) — Road crews have cleared one lane in Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve, and buses returned about 300 stranded tourists to the park entrance safely.

The tourists became stranded Friday after heavy rains triggered mudslides and caused excess water from a culvert to damage the only road inside the vast park.

Park spokesman Paul Ollig told The Associated Press that all the stranded passengers were back at the park entrance by midnight.

“Our team did an outstanding job responding to multiple debris slides along a pretty remote section of road,” said Erika Jostad, Denali’s chief ranger. “The geohazard team monitored conditions while the road crew was clearing debris. It was a great example of teamwork.”

On Saturday, the park announced that the road will be fully open at 5 a.m. Sunday.

“Park staff have done a remarkable job responding to this incident and ensuring the safety and comfort of park visitors,” Jostad said. “Folks from all disciplines have come together to safely accomplish this important task.”

Earlier Friday, Denali’s superintendent closed Denali Park Road to all traffic at mile 30.

Similar debris flows led to daylong traffic restrictions last week. Continued heavy rains since kept the road and surrounding tundra saturated with water.

Also on Friday, the Alaska Railroad said in a release that it has halted service north of the park because heavy rainfall had caused erosion below a retaining wall.

Passenger and freight service will be suspended through the area until late Monday at the earliest, the railroad said in a statement.

The railroad added that passengers traveling north to or south from Denali Park on the Alaska Railroad or on an Alaska Railroad provided service through Holland America/Princess or Premier Alaska Tours should expect delays.

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This story has been corrected to show Alaska Railroad’s service outage was caused by heavy rain, not high water on the Nenana River, per an updated release.

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