The news went from bad to worse this weekend for an Alaska city still reeling from a record-setting rainstorm that triggered mudslides and widespread flooding.
“The Haines area received another eight inches of snow [Saturday] night,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Rick Fritsch told USA TODAY on Sunday.
And, he added, “As the air mass above Haines warmed up while the surface temperatures were still below freezing, the snow turned into freezing rain and the area received anywhere from a 10th to a quarter of an inch of ice on top of all that fresh snow.”
As search and rescue efforts for two people who went missing in a large mudslide last week were complicated by those “very miserable conditions,” Haines officials were warning of potential evacuations with more snow and rain in the forecast this week.
Haines, a community of about 2,000 people in the northern part of the Alaska Panhandle, was one of the most devastated cities in Southwest Alaska during a record rain event last week. At least four homes were destroyed and hundreds have been damaged, according to the Anchorage Daily News. About 50 households were ordered to evacuate, the newspaper reported.
Haines will endure more precipitation this week as recovery efforts continue for David Simmons, 30, and Jenae Larson, 23, but the chances of another mudslide are unlikely, Fritsch said.
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“We got plenty of rain, we just don’t have the wind anymore and we’re all happy for that,” he said.
It will rain starting Sunday evening through early Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service in Juneau, Alaska. Snow of up to 3 inches is expected Sunday night and will continue for the rest of the week, with winds up to 20 mph.
The Haines Borough Government on Saturday warned residents on Facebook to pack essential belongings and be prepared to “quickly” evacuate in the event of new mudslides.
“Listen for any unusual sounds that might indicate moving debris, such as trees cracking or boulders knocking together,” the Facebook post said. “Moving landslides are often compared to the sound and feel of a passing freight train.”
Several recovery operations were underway Sunday, including snow removal, Haines Mayor Douglas Olerud told USA TODAY in a statement.
“It is important that crews are able to maximize the use of daylight hours,” Olerud said.
Four other people who were initially reported as missing in mudslides were found safely, Alaska State Troopers said Thursday.
Multiple precipitation records were broken last week across the region, including a single-day rainfall record from 1946, according to the National Weather Service in Juneau.
Forecasters reported 6.62 inches of rain in Haines last Tuesday.