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Drainage slows on highway lake formed by avalanche

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.

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finchfamily January 31 2014 at 7:37 AM

7 Brides for 7 Brothers a movie in the 1960s

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mwgreen January 31 2014 at 7:28 AM

what r they doing to help the people there?

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fmuddywaters January 31 2014 at 6:19 AM

I would think more than one end loader should be used, but maybe its bigger then it looks in the picture??

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vietnamvet1967 January 31 2014 at 6:17 AM

And Atlanta is worried about 2 inchs of snow

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bcrnbs2 January 31 2014 at 3:37 AM

waht a crap. this town isnt cut off.. damn they act like they are in seculsion.. choppers and cargo panes go in and out ever day... waht a crap

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mark and sheri January 31 2014 at 2:34 AM

And now the Vampires from the Russian Freighter show up....
Oh wait. That was just a movie. My Bad,
Never mind!

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1 reply to mark and sheri's comment
vietnamvet1967 January 31 2014 at 6:17 AM

I liked it

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imaprod January 31 2014 at 1:02 AM

when we lived in Valdez, I got a hernia from shoveling the wet snow.
Now, my hemorrhoids are flaming hot,too.

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2 replies to imaprod's comment
clovercuts January 31 2014 at 2:19 AM

well then, just kill ur self and save us tax payers the cost of fixing up another azzhole like you....LOL I just too darn funny for my own good...

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accordmee January 31 2014 at 2:50 AM

The information could have stopped at the hernia. TMI.

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cbs102642 January 30 2014 at 11:32 PM

Good for Clark and Carlson. I hope the judge isn't as stupid as the one here in San Antonio that caised a firestorm when he ordered a lab put down that scratched a kid that was scaring it.

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chanell 44 January 30 2014 at 10:57 PM

be glad when they clear the road ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,i don't believe they are no way for them to get out if they need to,,,,,,,,,,

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1 reply to chanell 44's comment
cbs102642 January 30 2014 at 11:33 PM

Believe it. There is one road in and out. If you have a boat, capable of traveling 300 miles, you could get to Anchorage. There are planes in and out twice a day, weather permitting.

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Halina January 30 2014 at 10:24 PM

They should not have been arrest. A pet is like a child, and to me it I would of done the same if it was a matter of life or death. Looks like the police doesn't see it that way. Pretty sad.

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clovercuts January 31 2014 at 2:24 AM

you and the other totally miss the point of the arrest. they had gone into a BLASTING zone. there was a charge ready to be set of to prevent more avalanche movement. The area was unsafe and the action of the two people forced the stopping of the blast. That caused the water level to rise. that caused the delay of rescue into the town where PEOPLE needed help.. SO yes, the arrest is warranted.

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accordmee January 31 2014 at 2:53 AM

Thanks, i was thinking the same thing.

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