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Airlift for marooned Denali guests, employees

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 27, 2014 at 1:23 pm •  Published: June 27, 2014

DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE, Alaska (AP) — Officials organized an airlift for dozens of lodge guests and lodge employees at Denali National Park and Preserve after flooding hit one lodge and flooding and rockfalls prompted the closure of the only road into the park on Thursday.

Overnight rains swelled small streams, park spokeswoman Kris Fister said. Flooding in the Kantishna area, near the end of the 92-mile road, prompted a road closure near Wonder Lake. Later in the day, falling rock temporarily closed the road at the Eielson Visitor Center. That's located at Mile 66, or about two-thirds of the way into the park.

Denali Backcountry Lodge was housing about 100 guests and employees when two nearby raging creeks flooded the facility. Those people were evacuated by bus Thursday and taken to a smaller nearby lodge, which provided food but couldn't house them all, Fister said.

So an airlift was arranged, using two helicopters and several small planes to transport those people to either buses at a ranger station or to private airstrips, the spokeswoman said. The airlift was completed by late Thursday night, she said.

Other lodges in the area did not flood and their guests should be able to get out by road on Friday after some temporary road repairs were completed, Fister said.

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