As of 6 PM Wednesday evening (8-19-15), the evacuation order has been lifted for residents of Whale Watch and Sand Dollar drives. These residents may now return to their homes. The evacuation order remains in place for residents of Kramer Avenue and Jacob Circle. Residents may access their homes for a half-hour, anytime, by signing in at the Kramer Avenue checkpoint.
Here are other developments in the Sitka landslide emergency:
Crews are now actively removing debris from the site, in the ongoing search for three victims, Elmer and Ulises Diaz, and William Stortz. They are using heavy equipment, and lookouts have been positioned across the slide zone. At the first sign of instability, all workers will leave following marked escape routes.
Many national news outlets were slow to correct their reports concerning this event, and you may find headlines online that list the number of missing at 4. That figure was revised downward yesterday afternoon. Again, the official number of missing is 3 people.
One search dog is working at the site. A second search dog from the Alaska State Troopers is on its way.
Four geologists — two from the state and two from Sitka — are inspecting the slide from the air. Due to low cloud ceilings today (Wednesday), they were unable to find the top of the slide, which appears to be over 1200 feet. A team from Sitka Search and Rescue is attempting to learn this information on the ground.
Emergency response crews plan to continue search and recovery operations at the site of the Kramer Avenue landslide today, once it’s determined that the area is safe enough for workers and equipment.
More volunteers are not needed at this time — officials are stressing that only trained personnel can safely assist operations. Everybody is asked to keep clear of the landslide areas for the safety and efficiency of the response crews.
Sitkans can most effectively help by donating food for evacuated residents and emergency personnel to the Salvation Army at 405 Sawmill Creek Road. The following items are most needed: Bread, Lunchmeat, Hamburger Meat, Rice, Mixed Veggies, Granola Bars, Apples, Oranges, Gatorade, Bottled Water, Bags of Chips, Cans of Soda, Brown Bags, Sandwich Bags, Packets of Mustard and Mayonnaise.
The landslides have caused several road closures. Harbor Mountain Road has been closed above the first gate at the bottom of the hill. Sawmill Creek Road is open, but there is a detour near Silver Bay Seafoods. Near the Kramer Avenue landslide, the city has closed Sand Dollar Drive, Whale Watch Drive and Kramer Avenue itself.