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Sterling Highway reopened after heavy wildfire smoke on Kenai Peninsula snarled traffic

Heavy smoke from the 20,000-acre Swan Lake fire on the western Kenai Peninsula shut down a 17-mile portion of the Sterling Highway on Friday, June 21, 2019. (Photo courtesy Alaska Division of Forestry.)

Heavy smoke from a large wildfire on the Kenai Peninsula was limiting travel along a 17-mile stretch of the Sterling Highway on Friday morning.

Alaska State Troopers first rerouted traffic onto Skilak Lake Loop Road, then opened the highway but limited drivers to pilot car escort between miles 58 and 75 because of reduced visibility, according to a statement issued at 8:43 a.m.

The road was reopened completely around 10:18 a.m. Friday.

Shannon McCarthy of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities cautioned that the situation may change quickly. Drivers can check the latest road conditions by calling 511 or at 511.alaska.gov.

If the road is closed again, traffic will be routed back onto Skilak Lake Loop Road, she said.

She cautioned drivers to use their headlights.

The smoke’s direction is unpredictable and visibility may be impaired wherever the wind blows it, the agency said in a tweet.

The nearly 23,000-acre Swan Lake fire is burning near Sterling just under 3 miles from the highway at its closest point, and thick smoke caused heavy traffic congestion between mile 61 and 70 Friday morning, according to the Division of Forestry.

The closures come at the beginning of solstice weekend, among the busiest of the year for Anchorage motorists heading south to recreation destinations on the Kenai Peninsula.

A smoke column on the northeast side of the Swan Lake Fire as seen on Monday, June 17, 2019. (Photo by Casey Lasota / Alaska Division of Forestry)

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