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Heavy Rain Leads To Evacuations From Denali

Visitors and staff from a private lodge in Denali National Park, were evacuated by air last night after rain swollen creeks blocked vehicle access near the end of the 92 mile Park Road. Park Service spokes woman Kris Fister says the more than 3 inches of rain that fell in the area overnight Thursday transformed two creek crossings.

"What normally are very small streams that do cross the road, Ureka Creek and Friday creek, something that you could easily walk across became raging torrents," she said.

Fister says the high water stranded 103 people, a mix of visitors and staff from the Denali Backcountry Lodge, and the agency mobilized helicopters and planes to move them out of the  area.

"To the Wonder Lake ranger station, where buses were waiting to take people back east. And then we also had the advantage of, the airstrip did become usable for fixed wing aircraft," Fister said. "So Kantishna Air Taxi utilized their Cessna 206's to not only take out their employees and guests, but also others. Also, there was an otter that came in from Fly Denali so we were able to get some guests out and took them all the way to airstrips either in the park, and also a couple of airstrips outside the park.” 

Fister says four Denali mountaineers stranded across the raging McKinley River were also airlifted out yesterday.  The Park Road was briefly closed west of the Eielson Visitors Center at mile 66 yesterday due to rockslides. Fister says all but the end of the road has reopened and visitor buses are running on modified agenda today.

"Buses that were scheduled to go to Kantishna will only go as far as Wonder Lake. And what's taking place now is basically assessments of the damage at Eureka and Friday Creek," she said. "Also certainly the folks at the Denali Backcountry Lodge will be getting in there and having a look at the damage to the facility and what needs to take place to get things up and running again in both cases, the road and the lodge.” 

Fister says the Park Service is coordinating road repairs with the Alaska Department of Transportation.

Dan has been in public radio news in Alaska since 1993. He’s worked as a reporter, newscaster and talk show host at stations in McGrath, Valdez and Fairbanks. Dan’s experience includes coverage of a wide range of topics, from wolf control to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and dog mushing.