Drainage slows on highway lake formed by avalanche

Drainage slows on highway lake formed by avalanche

Posted: Updated:
A photo released Wednesday Jan. 29, 2014, by the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities and made on Jan. 25, 2014, shows road crews beginning the job of clearing the closed Richardson Highway, near Valdez, Alaska.(AP Photo/Alaska DOT&PF) A photo released Wednesday Jan. 29, 2014, by the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities and made on Jan. 25, 2014, shows road crews beginning the job of clearing the closed Richardson Highway, near Valdez, Alaska.(AP Photo/Alaska DOT&PF)

By DAN JOLING

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Conditions were too unstable Wednesday to clear the only road into the city at the end of the trans-Alaska pipeline, which remains cut off by land from the rest of the state for a fifth day because of avalanches.

Drainage has slowed from a lake formed by one of the slides, and the water is too deep for heavy equipment to pass, the Alaska Department of Transportation said.

Avalanches Friday dumped hundreds of tons of snow onto the Richardson Highway, the only road access into Valdez. The city remained accessible only by air and sea, and its 4,100 residents were taking the inconvenience in stride, according to Valdez's clerk.

One of two major avalanches put at least 40 feet of snow onto the road in Keystone Canyon, a 300-foot-wide mountain opening that begins 12 miles from the city.

The avalanche also dammed the Lowe River and created a 2,500-foot-long lake with depths of at least 5 feet.

The trans-Alaska pipeline is buried parallel to the highway and was not affected by avalanches.

The lake's water was draining Tuesday at a rate of 5 inches per hour under the avalanche and through an abandoned rail tunnel, said Transportation Department spokeswoman Hannah Blankenship. By Wednesday, the lake had receded to a length of 1,500 feet and water was no longer draining through the tunnel.

"The water is now draining at a rate of 3 inches per hour," Blankenship said.

The water remained too deep for heavy equipment to reach the avalanche from the upstream side. Crews have not removed snow from the downstream side because officials fear collapsing the snow dam and triggering a dangerous surge of water.

Transportation officials continue to monitor the lake level as water saturates the snow.

"The snow is still wet and very heavy, and it's not safe for us to move with heavy equipment," she said.

Transportation officials used explosives fired from a 105 mm howitzer Wednesday to trigger controlled avalanches at Mile 39, the site of the second major avalanche blocking the road.

Shortly after 4 p.m., crews using heavy equipment had cleared the north end of the closed road and announced 24 more miles of highway was open, from Miles 19 to 42.

That allowed people living in a subdivision at Mile 19 to drive north if they wanted, Blankenship said.

Meanwhile, the Valdez Star reported that a couple arrested Saturday for walking through an avalanche blasting area were trying to get medical care in Valdez for their cat.

Kristina Clark and Donney Carlson, driving south on the highway, found their way blocked and walked more than a mile over two avalanches to get 5-year-old Ninja to a veterinarian for treatment of an infection. Alaska State Troopers said they ignored orders to stay out of the avalanche zones and blasting had to be delayed.

Clark, of nearby Copper Center, and Carlson were picked up by a helicopter and arrested when they landed in Valdez. They were released on bail Sunday.

Dr. Kelly Hawkins treated their pet. The veterinarian said the cat would not have lasted much longer without treatment.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • NJ National Guard unit to deploy to Persian Gulf

    NJ National Guard unit to deploy to Persian Gulf

    Friday, August 1 2014 8:34 PM EDT2014-08-02 00:34:45 GMT
    More citizen soldiers will be leaving New Jersey for the Middle East. Nearly 170 troops will depart the National Guard armory in Jersey City on Saturday for duty in the Persian Gulf.
    More citizen soldiers will be leaving New Jersey for the Middle East. Nearly 170 troops will depart the National Guard armory in Jersey City on Saturday for duty in the Persian Gulf.
  • OCME: Police chokehold caused Eric Garner's death

    OCME: Police chokehold caused Eric Garner's death

    Friday, August 1 2014 7:19 PM EDT2014-08-01 23:19:02 GMT
    The New York City medical examiner ruled Friday that a police officer's chokehold caused the death of a man whose videotaped arrest and final pleas of "I can't breathe!" sparked outrage and led to the announcement of a complete overhaul of use-of-force training for the nation's largest police force.
    The New York City medical examiner ruled Friday that a police officer's chokehold caused the death of a man whose videotaped arrest and final pleas of "I can't breathe!" sparked outrage and led to the announcement of a complete overhaul of use-of-force training for the nation's largest police force.
  • 'Ice bucket challenge'

    NY man with ALS gets support from friends and strangers

    NY man with ALS gets support from friends and strangers

    Friday, August 1 2014 7:14 PM EDT2014-08-01 23:14:45 GMT
    When he was 31, Patrick Quinn, of Queens, received the life-changing news: he has ALS. It all started after a softball game in 2011. After two years of countless medical tests, the diagnosis was final. Since then, Quinn has watched his body change. His arms are much thinner. His biceps and triceps have atrophied. His hands have lost all muscle.
    When he was 31, Patrick Quinn, of Queens, received the life-changing news: he has ALS. It all started after a softball game in 2011. After two years of countless medical tests, the diagnosis was final. Since then, Quinn has watched his body change. His arms are much thinner. His biceps and triceps have atrophied. His hands have lost all muscle.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices