At least 10 landslides triggered by heavy rainfall rocked the North Klondike Highway near Dawson City starting on Sept. 22. (Submitted/Department of Highways and Public Works)

At least 10 landslides triggered by heavy rainfall rocked the North Klondike Highway near Dawson City starting on Sept. 22. (Submitted/Department of Highways and Public Works)

Yukon government continues monitoring slope activity in recent landslide areas near Dawson City

Jim Regimbal says there is “minimal” possibility of more landslides in those areas

The Yukon government is keeping an eye on a section of the North Klondike Highway near Dawson City where a series of at least 10 landslides hit in September.

As the News reported, landslides triggered by heavy rainfall caused the road to be shut down and trapped up to 40 travellers between the two areas of fallen debris along the road.

The highway is the main artery between Dawson City and Whitehorse. The road has since fully reopened without time restrictions.

The cost of repairs remains to be determined, according to the department of Highways and Public Works.

Jim Regimbal is the northern area superintendent in the department’s transportation maintenance branch.

In an interview on Oct. 6, Regimbal gave some insight on the monitoring that’s taking place in the landslide areas.

“There’s been little to no movement, especially with the cooling temperatures,” he said.

He said the engineers had visited the site about three times to check on the four monitoring devices in the two landslide areas.

The equipment is picking up ground and air temperatures to give an indication of slope movement. A geologist is collecting data to get accurate readings of how the slope moves within different temperatures.

“That way we can best come up with a plan working with the geologists [and] the other engineers to put the right plan in place to mitigate this happening,” he said.

Regimbal said the ground isn’t moving like it was, now that cooler temperatures are setting in.

“The permafrost was letting go, and as the weather is cooling down, it’s slowing down,” he said.

“We hope the likelihood of a slide happening in the cooler temperatures will be minimized.”

Regimbal explained the findings will help predict the likelihood of another landslide and better understand how these kinds of sites behave after a major landslide event.

He said people who rely on the road for transportation and access to goods and services shouldn’t be overly concerned about the potential for more landslides, despite the inevitability of more occurring down the line as an impact of climate change.

“I don’t think they need to be worried about them because we’re monitoring them,” he said.

“They’re going to occur because Mother Nature has given us fires and removed a lot of the vegetation that would hold back the mud and debris from sliding down, so we’ve opened up those doors.”

Regimbal said the possibility of it coming down again and going over the road is “minimal.”

“However, it’s still there,” he said.

He said the geologists, engineers and other professionals are working to be more proactive than reactive. That could mean relying on the monitoring indicators to make decisions about closing down one lane or both lanes of the highway for some time depending on the levels of movement.

The Yukon government recently issued a request for proposals for consulting services to take on a large-scale climate vulnerability and geohazard mapping study for the Yukon’s highway network.

“Moving forward, we need that expertise from the professionals so that we don’t put in something in a knee-jerk fashion that we shouldn’t be doing, because it could potentially be more of a safety hazard than actually helping the condition,” Regimbal said.

Contact Dana Hatherly at dana.hatherly@yukon-news.com

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