The Seward Highway reopened Wednesday after a roughly 26-hour closure between Mile 90 to 100, according to the Alaska transportation department. Meanwhile, Southcentral residents and road crews were bracing for another massive dump of snow heading into today.
The highway shutdown between Anchorage and Girdwood, due to blinding snow and avalanche danger, ended at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. Another 8 to 16 inches of snow and blustery winds were in the forecast, the National Weather Service said.
To get the Seward Highway open, crews triggered a snow slide to the south of Bird Creek on Tuesday and worked that night and early Wednesday to clean up debris burying the highway, said DOT spokesman Rick Feller. Further avalanche assessment and control work took place Wednesday morning, Feller said. None of the artillery shots that were fired released an avalanche and the conditions were deemed safe enough to reopen the highway, he said.
"We really had to wait for daybreak to see what's going on with the avalanche conditions," Feller said. "You never know the degree of success you're going to have with each (artillery) shot. If we have a big release like we had yesterday with our controlled release, it will require more cleanup and more time."
Feller said he was impressed with the public's understanding and patience with the highway closure, which had essentially cut off Anchorage from most communities to the south.
"A common theme I'm hearing is 'I'd much prefer spending a night in Anchorage than spending a night along the Seward Highway,' " he said.
The state transportation workers are keeping a close eye on another wallop of snow expected to hit Southcentral Wednesday night and today, Feller said.
According to a weather service forecast posted late Wednesday, Anchorage was forecast to receive 8 to 16 inches of snow overnight and through the day today. Strong winds at high elevations and along Turnagain Arm are expected to again create hazardous driving conditions, the weather service said.
Feller said cleanup efforts Tuesday and Wednesday will help with the impending snow.
"Getting ready for the next event is all about cleaning up from the prior event," he said.
Reach Casey Grove at email@example.com or 257-4589.Reader photos: 2011 Alaska winter
By CASEY GROVE
Anchorage Daily News