Weeks after avalanches, lone road to Valdez opens

AP News

2/6/2014 5:29:53 AM - AP News

VALDEZ, Alaska (AP) — Two weeks after cascades of snow prevented vehicles from getting into this city at the end of the trans-Alaska pipeline, the only road to Valdez has reopened.

Crews finished clearing away the remaining avalanche debris, and there was no damage to Richardson Highway, the Anchorage Daily News reported (http://is.gd/nvV4Mr ).

A dozen or so avalanches combined to close the road on Jan. 24, including two that completely covered the highway and about 10 that partially covered it.

One major avalanche was in Thompson Pass at Mile 39. That avalanche and the smaller ones were cleared last week.

Another big avalanche filled Keystone Canyon, which begins at Mile 12 and is roughly 300 feet wide. Snow piled up on the road 40 to 50 feet high from canyon wall to canyon wall for 1,000 to 1,500 feet.

It also dammed the Lowe River, creating a lake that covered 2,500 feet of highway. Excavation crews could not reach the upstream side of the avalanche until last Friday after water drained or returned to the river channel.

"We live in a really cool place where these events just make it really interesting," Josh Miller, a teacher at Valdez High School, told the newspaper. He's been taking his classes outside to examine avalanche debris over the past two weeks.

Kate Dugan couldn't leave her subdivision just outside of Valdez for almost a week.

"I had a very understanding boss who let me work from home," said Dugan, who works in communications for the Alyeska Pipeline Services Co. "But life kind of continued on, maybe quieter or mellower. I was able to bake a little more bread."

Valdez City Manager John Hozey called the blockage the price residents pay to live in "one of the prettiest places in the planet."

Located about 100 miles east of Anchorage, Valdez had remained accessible by air and water.

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Information from: Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News, http://www.adn.com