Crews clear Cordova road after avalanche closes it for hours

Loaders punch through debris after airport, highway cut off from town.

Anchorage Daily NewsApril 17, 2012 

An avalanche of snow and mud on Tuesday cut off Cordova from the city's main airport and stranded some residents living past Mile 5 on the Copper River Highway, where the slide struck.

The avalanche came down slowly about noon and covered about 300 feet of highway in 20 to 40 feet of debris, said avalanche forecaster Steve "Hoots" Witsoe.

Cordova Mayor Jim Kallander said nobody was injured and a crew of five loader operators had punched a lane through by about 5 p.m.

The city of Cordova said the highway was open at 6:30 p.m.

During the day, two commercial jets landed at the main airport on the other side of the debris from Cordova, Kallander said, and passengers were ferried by small plane into the city.

Some school children were stuck in town and unable to get home on the other side of the avalanche, said police dispatcher Rick Silveira. There are about 50 or 60 homes cut off from the slide, he said.

Witsoe said the danger of further avalanches was rated at "considerable," down from the previous "high" rating.

Because so much snow fell in Cordova this winter before the ground fully froze, the spring avalanches are dragging rocks and soil with them, Mayor Kallander said.

Record-breaking snow from this winter continues to melt, Kallander said.

"It's going away, but not fast enough for any of us," he said.

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.

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