Local Cyclist Injured In “Roofalanche”.

Valdez, AK (Snow News Network). Two Valdez residents barely escaped from a roofalanche on Tuesday evening around 9 p.m. Mike “Moe” Moose (32) and Sap Bear (31) were riding their brightly decorated bike around the streets of Valdez, tandem, to celebrate the holidays. While riding up onto a porch, they were struck by the avalanche, cascading off the roof of an apartment complex at 100 Foraker Street.

Sap was knocked off the lap of Moe, then swept about twenty feet. He was found within minutes, partially buried, by apartment resident Matt Kinney, who heard a large boom followed by a single yelp for help. Kinney, who provides local avalanche information, sped to action. Seeing that an avalanche was occurring, he grabbed his shovel and probe and raced to the scene in his front yard.


“It was carnage when I opened the door,” he said. He saw avalanches pouring off the roof and then it just ended. It was dark and foggy, and rain mixed with snow complicated the rescue. Kinney had no time to call 911. “I found my friend Moe hanging on the bike upside down, unconscious, moaning and pointing down to the ground. He seemed okay, though he was getting drenched hanging under the roof eave.” Moe later reported that it didn’t seem too bad waiting for rescue.

Kinney quickly ran down the stairs and found Sap partially buried, face down in eight inches of debris. “I thought the worst,” Kinney said. “It was very dark, silent and macabre with the holiday lights blinking”. Calling upon his medical training, Kinney extracted Sap from the debris, turned him over and threw snow in his face. “It was on the third toss of snow that he perked up and his eyes opened. It was a rush.” Sap was fine, but began hollering and pointing his paw at Moe who was still swinging from the bike. The only thing preventing a ten foot fall to the ground and certain loss of antlers was a single bungee cord.


Moe waits for rescue.

With Sap safe, Kinney turned his attention to Moe. After making sure the scene was safe from further slides, he and Sap scaled the stairs and worked together to unclip the distraught cyclist. They gently brought Moe indoors and called 911. Kinney said, “He was pretty tough and didn’t complain. By the time I got set up to take vitals, the EMTs showed up and took it from there. Sap wanted to start splinting right away with ski poles.”

While Sap may have escaped serious injury, Moe broke one leg and sustained a concussion. Moe is expected to make a full recovery. Neither of the victims were wearing a helmet or beacon, nor were they carrying a shovel. “This is perplexing. They should know better because they have both attended my awareness classes,” Kinney stated.

“It was a large slide relative to the victims’ sizes,” said Kinney, “but I’ve seen that roof go much bigger. Those two were real lucky.”


Sap is found face down.

In an interview from his bed at Valdez’s Providence Medical Center, Moe recalled his near tragic ending. “Sap and I have tons of experience with snow, plus thousands of years of genetics to boot,” he whispered while Sap held his hoof. Both cyclists are in their 30’s and both say they don’t know if they will ride around roofs during winter any longer.

“All the signs were there. Rain, heavy snow, attitudes, naturals. We just ignored them. We made a big moo-moo.” Moe stated. “All the signs were there except the STOP sign”. As he lay in the hospital room contemplating the medical bill, which dominated the latter part of the interview, he ranted, “Where’s my Obamacare?”

Sap said it feels like it was his fault because they had been biking together under roofs for years. It was his job to keep his eyes up while Moe peddled up rails. “I was distracted by a snow plow, perhaps,” he hypothesized. When asked if they had read the local avalanche forecast they stated in unison, “No, we can’t read so we only look at the pictures.”

“Maybe we should get airbags,” Moe mentioned. Sap replied that he usually carries party balloons. “They might work if we just party with them inflated, strapped to our behinds.”


Photo by Valdez Police.

Taking a more serious tone, Moe said, “Thanks to Matt Kinney, the EMTs, and the hospital staff for all their patience with my one bad leg and three good legs. Those folks are top notch.” Then, he sipped melted snow and crunched willows provided by the Senior Center.

Sap said he’s returning to work in his field of igloo construction north of Fairbanks as soon as Moe is released from the hospital. Moe runs Hedgers, a local company specializing in vegetative restoration projects.

Valdez leads the nation in roofalanche incidents per capita and is one of the snowiest places on earth. With abundant metal roofs to provide the perfect bed surface, Valdez residents have much to fear constantly.  Kinney related, “It was a near tragedy and this is a wake-up call for all moose, bears, and humans about the hazards of roofalanches.” Kinney was also pleased when the friends wanted to be interviewed about the incident. “They are slightly emBEARassed,” he said with a chuckle. A full report by the local avalanche club is due within a few years.

To help Moe with his medical expenses, a fund under the name of “Moose In Need” has been set up at both local banks to contribute. Moe also requested that bundles of willows be delivered to the hospital. A local cyclist who asked not to be identified has stepped forward with a new bike for Moe and Sap

by  Pitt Von Graupel