Richardson Hwy. reopened after 2-week avalanche closure

thanlon@adn.comFebruary 3, 2014 

UPDATE 12 NOON WEDNESDAY:

Alaska highway officials said  the Richardson Highway was reopened late Wednesday morning after a nearly two-week closure to allow for clearing of avalanches and draining of a snow-dam lake on the road.

UPDATE 11 AM TUESDAY

(AP) — Alaska highway officials say they expect to reopen the avalanche-choked Richardson Highway by Wednesday afternoon, nearly two weeks after walls of snow cut off the only road into Valdez.

The highway has been blocked by avalanches since Jan. 24. Air and water access remained open to Valdez.

The Alaska Department of Transportation announced Tuesday the final blockage in Keystone Canyon at Miles 12 to 18 should be opened by 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Avalanche gates wills remain closed until the reopening.

The department says it has completed multiple stability tests to make sure the highway can support heavy loads and that the highway is in good shape.

The avalanche dammed the Lowe River and created a lake across the highway. Crews could not reach the snow from the upstream side until Friday.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Alaska highway officials said they expect to reopen the Richardson Highway sometime this week after a series of massive avalanches blocked the road just north of Valdez.

The road remained closed between Mile 12 and 18 on Monday while road crews removed snow with front-end loaders and bulldozers, said Alaska Department of Transportation spokeswoman Hannah Blankenship.

"The weather conditions have been good and ideal for snow removal," she said. "The temperatures dropped and the winds picked up."

Blankenship estimated that crews had pushed about half of the more than 100,000 cubic yards of fallen snow from the roadway in Keystone Canyon by Monday afternoon.

Avalanches in Keystone Canyon on Jan. 24 dammed the Lowe River near Mile 12 and delayed access to the area until Friday.

Blankenship said she hesitated to give a firm reopening date incase weather conditions change or crews find unexpected roadway damage under the piles of snow.

Valdez officials said in a statement Monday that they expect the road to remain closed until at least Thursday.

Reach Tegan Hanlon at thanlon@adn.com or 257-4589.

 

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