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Valdez still cut off due to avalanches on Richardson Hwy.

Devin Kelly
This graphic distributed by the National Weather Service via social media diagrams the snow dam on the Lowe River in Keystone Canyon caused by Friday's avalanches.
NWS
DOT has closed the road from Mile 12 (about 12 miles north of Valdez) to Mile 64. Avalanches in Keystone Canyon near Valdez have buried parts of the Richardson Highway several hundred feet long and between 30 and 40 feet deep.
Alyeska Pipeline Company
DOT has closed the road from Mile 12 (about 12 miles north of Valdez) to Mile 64. Avalanches in Keystone Canyon near Valdez have buried parts of the Richardson Highway several hundred feet long and between 30 and 40 feet deep.
Alyeska Pipeline Company
DOT has closed the road from Mile 12 (about 12 miles north of Valdez) to Mile 64. Avalanches in Keystone Canyon near Valdez have buried parts of the Richardson Highway several hundred feet long and between 30 and 40 feet deep.
Alyeska Pipeline Company
DOT has closed the road from Mile 12 (about 12 miles north of Valdez) to Mile 64. Avalanches in Keystone Canyon near Valdez have buried parts of the Richardson Highway several hundred feet long and between 30 and 40 feet deep.
Alyeska Pipeline Company

A flash flood warning and evacuation order was lifted for communities north of  Valdez on Saturday after water — backed up by a series of avalanches on the Richardson Highway — receded overnight, officials said. 

Snow and debris was still blocking the highway and keeping state crews from clearing the roadway, effectively cutting off Valdez by road. 

The Department of Transportation closed the road between milepost 12 to 64, a stretch that includes Keystone Canyon, the Alpine Woods subdivision and the 10 Mile area.  Snow slides and winter road closures are not unusual there, but the latest ones were the talk of Valdez on Friday.

“These are some of the largest avalanches they’ve ever seen come down in Thompson Pass,” Jeremy Woodrow, spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said Friday. 

About three inches of rain fell in the area on Friday, a record for that day in January, according to Mike Ottenweller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage.

No injuries or major damage were reported, but the highway may be in rough shape when the clearing finally begins, said Holly Wolgamott, deputy city clerk in Valdez.  

“We will have to wait and see once (DOT) starts clearing the road what happens to the road itself,” Wolgamott said. 

Localized flooding remained a concern because of snowmelt and the rain. With temperatures in the upper 30s, officials in Valdez were also warning of additional snow slides. 

Water flowing from the avalanche-dammed Lowe River began receding overnight, but at minimum, the road will remain closed through Sunday, officials said. 

The National Weather Service issued the flash flood warning Friday afternoon for residents of Keystone Canyon, and the city of Valdez placed a voluntary evacuation order on those living in Alpine Woods and the 10 Mile area. 

An emergency shelter opened at the Valdez High School gymnasium went unused Friday night, and closed Saturday morning, Wolgamott said.

Safeway missed one delivery due to the road closure, and was planning to put its truck on a ferry, Wolgamott said.

 “Certain foods are running low at this point,” but most were expected to be replenished Sunday, Wolgamott said. 

Reach Devin Kelly at dkelly@adn.com or 257-4314.

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Devin Kelly
dkelly@adn.com