Freezing rain is leading to extraordinary conditions on the sole road out of Haines this week — extraordinarily nasty conditions.
Heather McKay works at the Yukon Department of Highways and Public Works. She said the Haines highway has been closed off and on this week because it’s mostly ice.
“It’s very unusual at this time of year to experience these kinds of conditions. We actually haven’t experienced such a prolonged rain event in December in recent memory.”
The poor conditions are thanks to a streak of record-setting warm winter weather. Temperatures keep alternating above and below freezing, layering rain on top of black ice.
“That’s when you get a situation where you get a solid sheet of ice,” McKay said. “If it were twenty below, it wouldn’t happen. You’d get snow, and it would stay pack snow. But this is the situation we’re in right now.”
While snow is an everyday problem on the highway, ice is harder to plow — or scrape.
“During the past week, we were ice blading and sanding the roads. But really, we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature with this kind of weather,” McKay said.
It’s unusual for the highway to be closed for more than 24 hours. Though it has been opened on and off this week, the Department has maintained a travel advisory throughout.
The Department recommends anyone who doesn’t need to travel stay home. Those who do have to brave the road should check the both U.S. and Canadian highway monitors, watch for equipment, and drive carefully.
As of Friday morning, the highway was closed.
UPDATE: As of 11:49 a.m., the highway is open. Border officials warned they didn’t know how long it would last.