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Richardson Hwy. reopened after 2-week avalanche closure

The 4,000 residents of Valdez are cut off from the road system as a result of a massive avalanche in Snowslide Gulch near Keystone Canyon and the Lowe River. Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Richardson Highway near Mile 16 is still buried under debris from a massive avalanche in Snowslide Gulch near Keystone Canyon and the Lowe River as road crews wait for the flooding to recede on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
Vertical Solutions Helicopters co-owner and pilot Douglas Fulton returns to Valdez after an overflight of the Snowslide Gulch avalanche on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, that carried a massive amount of rain-soaked snow that buried the Richardson Highway and damned the Lowe River last week.
Bill Roth
Vertical Solutions Helicopters co-owner and pilot Douglas Fulton returns to Valdez after an overflight of the Snowslide Gulch avalanche on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, that carried a massive amount of rain-soaked snow that buried the Richardson Highway and damned the Lowe River last week.
Bill Roth
The Richardson Highway near Mile 16 is still buried under debris from a massive avalanche in Snowslide Gulch near Keystone Canyon and the Lowe River as road crews wait for the flooding to recede on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Richardson Highway near Mile 16 is still buried under debris from a massive avalanche in Snowslide Gulch near Keystone Canyon and the Lowe River as road crews wait for the flooding to recede on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Richardson Highway near Mile 16 is still buried under debris from a massive avalanche in Snowslide Gulch near Keystone Canyon and the Lowe River as road crews wait for the flooding to recede on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
Flooding debris and ice surround a Richardson Highway mile post sign on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Richardson Highway near Mile 16 is still buried under debris from a massive avalanche in Snowslide Gulch near Keystone Canyon and the Lowe River as road crews wait for the flooding to recede on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Richardson Highway near Mile 16 is still buried under debris from a massive avalanche in Snowslide Gulch near Keystone Canyon and the Lowe River as road crews wait for the flooding to recede on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Alpine subdivision of Valdez is still on the lookout for possible flooding as a result of the avalanches at Mile 16 of the Richardson Highway on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
Flooding debris and ice surround a Richardson Highway mile post sign on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
Flooding debris and ice surround a Richardson Highway mile post sign on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Richardson Highway near Mile 16 is still buried under debris from a massive avalanche in Snowslide Gulch near Keystone Canyon and the Lowe River as road crews wait for the flooding to recede on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Alpine subdivision of Valdez is still on the lookout for possible flooding as a result of the avalanches at Mile 16 of the Richardson Highway on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Alpine subdivision of Valdez is still on the lookout for possible flooding as a result of the avalanches at Mile 16 of the Richardson Highway on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Richardson Highway near Mile 16 is still buried under debris from a massive avalanche in Snowslide Gulch near Keystone Canyon and the Lowe River as road crews wait for the flooding to recede on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Richardson Highway near Mile 16 is still buried under debris from a massive avalanche in Snowslide Gulch near Keystone Canyon and the Lowe River as road crews wait for the flooding to recede on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Richardson Highway near Mile 16 is still buried under debris from a massive avalanche in Snowslide Gulch near Keystone Canyon and the Lowe River as road crews wait for the flooding to recede on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
Vertical Solutions Helicopters co-owner and pilot Douglas Fulton lifts off from the Valdez airport with local residents on a flightseeing tour of the Snowslide Gulch avalanche that closed the Richardson Highway near Keystone Canyon on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Richardson Highway near Mile 16 is still buried under debris from a massive avalanche in Snowslide Gulch near Keystone Canyon and the Lowe River as road crews wait for the flooding to recede on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Richardson Highway near Mile 16 is still buried under debris from a massive avalanche in Snowslide Gulch near Keystone Canyon and the Lowe River as road crews wait for the flooding to recede on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
Kate Sicilia, 24, watched avalanches slide down the mountains surrounding Valdez last week from the back of a purse seiner moored in the small boat harbor. Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
Vertical Solutions Helicopters co-owner and pilot Douglas Fulton lifts off from the Valdez airport with local residents on a flightseeing tour of the Snowslide Gulch avalanche that closed the Richardson Highway near Keystone Canyon on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
Vertical Solutions Helicopters co-owner and pilot Douglas Fulton lifts off from the Valdez airport with local residents on a flightseeing tour of the Snowslide Gulch avalanche that closed the Richardson Highway near Keystone Canyon on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
Nathaniel Hughes, left, and Caleb Springer scrape ice off the docks at the City of Valdez Small Boat Harbor on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, that was created by spring-like weather and heavy rain last week.
Bill Roth
Kate Sicilia, 24, watched avalanches slide down the mountains surrounding Valdez last week from the back of a purse seiner moored in the small boat harbor. Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
Kate Sicilia, 24, watched avalanches slide down the mountains surrounding Valdez last week from the back of a purse seiner moored in the small boat harbor. Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
A front-end loader is parked on the Richardson Highway near Mile 16 after having cleared some of the flooding debris on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
Nathaniel Hughes, left, and Caleb Springer scrape ice off the docks at the City of Valdez Small Boat Harbor on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, that was created by spring-like weather and heavy rain last week.
Bill Roth
Nathaniel Hughes, left, and Caleb Springer scrape ice off the docks at the City of Valdez Small Boat Harbor on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, that was created by spring-like weather and heavy rain last week.
Bill Roth
Kate Sicilia, 24, soaks up sun while reading the Bible on the back of a purse seiner during a spring-like day in Valdez on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. She watched avalanches slide down the mountains surrounding Valdez last week from the small boat harbor.
Bill Roth
A front-end loader is parked on the Richardson Highway near Mile 16 after having cleared some of the flooding debris on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
A front-end loader is parked on the Richardson Highway near Mile 16 after having cleared some of the flooding debris on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
Jason Kendall walks home from the grocery store on a spring-like day in Valdez on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. A massive avalanche kept the Richardson Highway closed north of town.
Bill Roth
Kate Sicilia, 24, soaks up sun while reading the Bible on the back of a purse seiner during a spring-like day in Valdez on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. She watched avalanches slide down the mountains surrounding Valdez last week from the small boat harbor.
Bill Roth
Kate Sicilia, 24, soaks up sun while reading the Bible on the back of a purse seiner during a spring-like day in Valdez on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. She watched avalanches slide down the mountains surrounding Valdez last week from the small boat harbor.
Bill Roth
Chef Joel Brown walks to work past mounds of melting snow on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. Valdez is behind its normal annual snowfall with the recent spring-like weather.
Bill Roth
Jason Kendall walks home from the grocery store on a spring-like day in Valdez on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. A massive avalanche kept the Richardson Highway closed north of town.
Bill Roth
Jason Kendall walks home from the grocery store on a spring-like day in Valdez on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. A massive avalanche kept the Richardson Highway closed north of town.
Bill Roth
The 4,000 residents of Valdez are cut off from the road system as a result of a massive avalanche in Snowslide Gulch near Keystone Canyon and the Lowe River. Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
Darwin Barrie who witnessed the 1964 Good Friday earthquake tsunami reflects on the past and present while at the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Valdez on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
Chef Joel Brown walks to work past mounds of melting snow on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. Valdez is behind its normal annual snowfall with the recent spring-like weather.
Bill Roth
Chef Joel Brown walks to work past mounds of melting snow on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. Valdez is behind its normal annual snowfall with the recent spring-like weather.
Bill Roth
The 4,000 residents of Valdez are cut off from the road system as a result of a massive avalanche in Snowslide Gulch near Keystone Canyon and the Lowe River. Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
The 4,000 residents of Valdez are cut off from the road system as a result of a massive avalanche in Snowslide Gulch near Keystone Canyon and the Lowe River. Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
Darwin Barrie who witnessed the 1964 Good Friday earthquake tsunami reflects on the past and present while at the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Valdez on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
Darwin Barrie who witnessed the 1964 Good Friday earthquake tsunami reflects on the past and present while at the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Valdez on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
Vertical Solutions Helicopters co-owner and pilot Douglas Fulton returns to Valdez after an overflight of the Snowslide Gulch avalanche on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, that carried a massive amount of rain-soaked snow that buried the Richardson Highway and damned the Lowe River last week.
Bill Roth
The 4,000 residents of Valdez are cut off from the road system as a result of a massive avalanche in Snowslide Gulch near Keystone Canyon and the Lowe River. Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth
The 4,000 residents of Valdez are cut off from the road system as a result of a massive avalanche in Snowslide Gulch near Keystone Canyon and the Lowe River. Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.
Bill Roth

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.

 


Daily News and wire reports
thanlon@adn.com