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Avalanche slows Seward Highway traffic; more delays expected Tuesday

Kyle Hopkins,Lisa Demer
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News A rainbow arches over a west Anchorage neighbor hood at sunset to cap several days of warm weather and rain in south central Alaska on Monday, January 14, 2013. 130114
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News A SUV drives through a water puddle spanning the street in a west Anchorage neighborhood as several days of warm weather and rain came to south central Alaska on Sunday, January 13, 2013. 130113
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Water pools in the street in a west Anchorage neighborhood at sunset to cap several days of warm weather and rain in south central Alaska on Monday, January 14, 2013. 130114
Bob Hallinen
Water surrounds a ski-equipped airplane parked on Lake Hood as warm weather and rain caused breakup-like conditions in Anchorage on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.
Bill Roth
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News A pickup kicks up standing water on Arctic Boulevard at West 18th Avenue as warm weather and rain caused breakup-like conditions in Anchorage on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.
Bill Roth
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News Wind creates ripples in the water surrounding a picnic table normally used by ics skaters at Westchester Lagoon as warm weather and rain caused breakup-like conditions in Anchorage on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.
Bill Roth
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News Tristan Slats walks towards a puddle on 14th Avenue and Fairbanks Street in Anchorage on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. Warm weather and rain over the weekend has created breakup-like conditions in Southcentral Alaska.
Bill Roth
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News Ice removed from the Chester Creek Trail near the Arctic Boulevard tunnel is piled away from the trail on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. Warm weather and rain over the weekend has created breakup-like conditions in Southcentral Alaska.
Bill Roth
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News Warm weather and rain has caused Chester Creek to swell in the breakup-like conditions in Anchorage on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.
Bill Roth
Alexandrea Hermann, 9, takes a tumble while ice skating on residential street in East Anchorage as it rained on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013.
Bill Roth
Arlynda Hermann let her son Simon, 10, try her hockey skates while it rained in East Anchorage on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013.
Bill Roth
City street maintenance workers thaw a storm drain on Nichols Street in East Anchorage as it rained on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013.
Bill Roth
A city street maintenance worker locates a frozen storm drain on Nichols Street in East Anchorage as it rained on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013.
Bill Roth
A vehicle passes through standing water on Nichols Street in East Anchorage as it rained on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013.
Bill Roth
Paul Honeman drops ice melt on a sidewalk as it rained in East Anchorage on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013.
Bill Roth
Jack Martin walks in the rain in downtown Anchorage as he returned Christmas gifts on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013.
Bill Roth
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News A rainbow arches over a west Anchorage neighbor hood at sunset to cap several days of warm weather and rain in south central Alaska on Monday, January 14, 2013. 130114
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News A SUV drives through a water puddle spanning the street in a west Anchorage neighborhood as several days of warm weather and rain came to south central Alaska on Sunday, January 13, 2013. 130113
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Water pools in the street in a west Anchorage neighborhood at sunset to cap several days of warm weather and rain in south central Alaska on Monday, January 14, 2013. 130114
Bob Hallinen
Water surrounds a ski-equipped airplane parked on Lake Hood as warm weather and rain caused breakup-like conditions in Anchorage on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.
Bill Roth
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News A pickup kicks up standing water on Arctic Boulevard at West 18th Avenue as warm weather and rain caused breakup-like conditions in Anchorage on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.
Bill Roth
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News Wind creates ripples in the water surrounding a picnic table normally used by ics skaters at Westchester Lagoon as warm weather and rain caused breakup-like conditions in Anchorage on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.
Bill Roth
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News Tristan Slats walks towards a puddle on 14th Avenue and Fairbanks Street in Anchorage on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. Warm weather and rain over the weekend has created breakup-like conditions in Southcentral Alaska.
Bill Roth
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News Ice removed from the Chester Creek Trail near the Arctic Boulevard tunnel is piled away from the trail on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. Warm weather and rain over the weekend has created breakup-like conditions in Southcentral Alaska.
Bill Roth
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News Warm weather and rain has caused Chester Creek to swell in the breakup-like conditions in Anchorage on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.
Bill Roth
Alexandrea Hermann, 9, takes a tumble while ice skating on residential street in East Anchorage as it rained on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013.
Bill Roth
Arlynda Hermann let her son Simon, 10, try her hockey skates while it rained in East Anchorage on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013.
Bill Roth
City street maintenance workers thaw a storm drain on Nichols Street in East Anchorage as it rained on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013.
Bill Roth
A city street maintenance worker locates a frozen storm drain on Nichols Street in East Anchorage as it rained on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013.
Bill Roth
A vehicle passes through standing water on Nichols Street in East Anchorage as it rained on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013.
Bill Roth
Paul Honeman drops ice melt on a sidewalk as it rained in East Anchorage on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013.
Bill Roth
Jack Martin walks in the rain in downtown Anchorage as he returned Christmas gifts on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013.
Bill Roth

MONDAY 4 P.M. UPDATE

An avalanche delayed traffic for roughly two hours today on the Seward Highway, north of Girdwood. More delays are expected Tuesday morning as crews attempt to thwart additional slides. 

The 11:30 a.m. avalanche “affected” all three lanes of the highway at Mile 95, south of Bird Point, Transportation Department spokesman Rick Feller wrote in an email. Crews used artillery to perform avalanche prevention work in the area before clearing the debris. The highway fully re-opened at 1:30 p.m., Feller wrote.

 

 

 

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The avalanche followed a rockfall that delayed highway traffic closer to Anchorage earlier in the day. That fall, at 5:30 a.m., temporarily closed one lane of Seward Highway traffic in the Falls Creek area, north of Indian, the spokesman said. The rock fall was at Mile 106. All debris had been cleared from the roadway by 9 a.m.

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Expect more delays tomorrow.

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The Transportation Department plans to perform avalanche prevention work between Girdwood and Portage from 9 to 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to the department’s road hazard website, http://511.alaska.gov

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Drivers should expect up to 45-minute delays.

       

 

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MONDAY NOON UPDATE

The National Weather Service has called off a flood advisory for rain and melting snow in Anchorage. City boiler trucks are thawing frozen drains on roads across the city, meantime, to clear water-logged streets.

Mariner Drive in South Anchorage is the only road closed due to flooding, public works officials say.

Persistent rain, beginning Friday in many areas of Anchorage, turned many streets to ice rinks over the weekend, prompting district officials to close city schools Monday. A daily record of .4 inches of rain fell Sunday at the National Weather Service office south of the airport, said hydro-meteorological technician Dave Stricklan. 

Street maintenance workers have been called to three flooded homes since the rainfall began, said operations general foreman Paul VanLandingham.

 

 

 

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“If we don’t get any more rain and the temperatures hold what they are now … I’m thinking tomorrow evening, if not earlier, we’re going to be in pretty good shape,” VanLandingham said.

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Most main and secondary streets are clear to the pavement, he said, though many neighborhoods remain slick. The city urged people to call 343-8277 to report potholes that appear as the ice thaws.

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It was about 45 degrees in Anchorage at noon. The warm weather and stubborn rainfall are creating the kind of problems that workers typically see in spring, not January, said operations and maintenance director Alan Czajkowski. 

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Mariner Drive will likely remain closed through Tuesday due to flooding, Czajkowski said. A blocked culvert under Johns Road, south of Klatt Road, swamped the roadway, which is a common spring occurrence, he said.

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Nine steam trucks and four crews are popping drains today, clearing water from roadways.

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The previous daily record for rainfall in the area of the National Weather Service office was a quarter inch in 1928.

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Far more rain fell in the Hillside over the weekend, with one Hillside observer reporting 2.66 inches through Sunday, Stricklan said.

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Look for partly cloudy skies and temperatures to cool to the 20s tonight in the Anchorage Bowl.

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“We’ll see some improvements here,” Stricklan said. “Pretty much just scattered showers by early afternoon. By tonight, we’re looking to see some isolated rain and snow showers as temperatures drop.”

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One accident with injuries was reported between midnight and about 11 a.m. today in Anchorage and Eagle River, a police spokeswoman said. 

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9AM MONDAY UPDATE

 

The weather service has extended the high-wind warning along Turnagain Arm and higher Anchorage elevations  until 11 a.m. Winds will be 40 to 60 mph with gusts up to 85 mph, peaking in midmorning. 

 

The flood warning remains in effect until noon, the weather service says.

 

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MONDAY MORNING UPDATE:

 

The Anchorage School District says all schools will be closed Monday because of icy roads. All after-school activities are canceled as well. Administrative facilities are open, and employees who can get to work safely should do so, the district says. 

 

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District has also closed schools Monday except for Glacier View School in Sutton.

 

UAA's Anchorage, Eagle River and JBER campuses are also closed today.

 

Camp Fire says it will  operate five emergency closure sites for children in currently enrolled families. The sites are at Denali, Homestead. Lake Otis, Sand Lake and Spring Hill elementary schools. Parents can go to Camp Fire's website for details.

 

Here's the closure announcement from the Anchorage School District:

 

Due to road conditions, all ASD schools are closed today, Jan. 14. This closure includes cancellation of all ASD-sponsored after-school activities.

 

ASD administrative facilities, including the Education Center, will be open today. Administrative employees should report to work as road conditions allow them to safely do so.

 

Buildings will remain open for groups scheduled to rent ASD facilities. Those activities will be held at the renter's discretion.

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Sunday night story:

A steady rain on Sunday — unusual for Anchorage in January — caused minor flooding along some streets and trouble for drivers on side streets slick with water on ice, according to police and city officials.

Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna school districts said on their Facebook pages that they had not yet made a decision on whether to hold school on Monday. Anchorage officials say they’ll make an announcement after crews drive streets in the early morning. Mat-Su officials similarly were continuing to evaluate the road conditions.

The National Weather Service on Sunday said a high wind warning for Turnagain Arm and the Anchorage Hillside would be in effect until 11 a.m. Monday. Forecasters were predicting winds of 40-to-60 mph with gusts as big as 85 mph. The Weather Service also issued a flood watch for Anchorage, the Mat-Su, the Western Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound that it attributed to a combination of rain and melting snow.

The rain should stop by Monday afternoon, but the temperature will remain warmer than normal and reach again into the 40s, the Weather Service said.

Between midnight Saturday and 8 p.m Sunday, Anchorage police responded to 28 accidents, another three crashes with injuries, and 40 reports of vehicles in distress, police spokeswoman Anita Shell said.

City street maintenance crews on Sunday were sanding roads and using a grader to roughen ice, said Teri Albrecht, public information officer for the Public Works Department.  They were following up on reports of standing water on roads and used a boiler truck to open frozen drains, she said. The main roads were clear, she said. They also were monitoring creeks for signs of flooding, she said.

Meanwhile city officials have received scattered reports of flooding on city streets and are advising people not to drive through standing water. People reported flooding on Northern Lights Boulevard west of Minnesota Drive, on low-lying spots on A Street, and on Elmore Road, said Dawn Brantley, emergency programs manager. 

A car can stall in a foot of water, she said. “This could get a little bit worse before it gets better.”

 

 

 

Current Alaska weather warnings and advisories
By KYLE HOPKINS and LISA DEMER
Anchorage Daily News
Contact Kyle Hopkins at or on