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Highway Closed Again By Avalanche

February 5, 2000

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ Another avalanche closed portions of south-central Alaska’s main highway not long after officials had cleared the roadway of remnants from iceslides earlier this week.

The highway had only recently opened when the latest avalanche hit Friday night. There was no immediate word of anyone in danger.

The Seward Highway was opened Friday from Anchorage south to the junction leading to the small village of Hope, about 70 miles, temporarily liberating Kenai Peninsula communities trapped for days by avalanches. The highway connects the Peninsula with the rest of the state.

The latest avalanche closed a portion of highway from the ski resort town of Girdwood, about 30 miles southeast of Anchorage, to the junction. A 35-mile stretch south of Hope remained closed because of the risk of new avalanches.

One state transportation official said more bad weather forecast for the weekend could bring more trouble.

``If it starts snowing again, it could start all over again,″ Murph O’Brien, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said Friday.

He said state crews were using explosives for controlled avalanches to bring down threatening ledges of snow that built up during a succession of storms this week.

Many who had been stuck in Girdwood since Monday _ when the avalanches first hit _ wasted little time hitting the road. Though some were a bit more cautious.

``We’re not so sure we want to risk it,″ Tasha Stinson of Girdwood said of the 40-mile drive to Anchorage. ``We don’t want to be buried.″

At least one person has been killed by the avalanches that started Monday, and Gov. Tony Knowles has requested the Clinton administration declare the region a disaster area.

The avalanches also caused power line breaks that could leave residents of Girdwood and smaller communities without electricity for up to a week.

On Friday, National Guard crews airlifted utility repair equipment, a diesel generator and fuel to Hope, where the 150 residents were among those left without power.

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