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Seward Highway and Whittier Tunnel Closed from Potter Marsh to Girdwood – DOT&PF Responds to Winter Storm

January 10, 2011 (ANCHORAGE, Alaska) – A winter snow storm and two early morning avalanches have combined to create extremely dangerous driving conditions, prompting the State of Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Faculties to close the Seward Highway between Potter Marsh and Girdwood.  

This closure is effective from 9:00 a.m. and will extend until further notice. Reported conditions on the highway are of white-out conditions with little to no visibility, drifting snow and severe winter storm conditions.  

The traveled way was reduced to one lane in certain segments. The avalanches occurred in the McHugh Creek area and slide debris reached the northbound lane of the Seward Highway.  Assessments of the avalanche events and conditions may justify avalanche risk reduction work along the highway during the closure.  

Similar conditions in Portage Valley have also prompted the closure of the Whittier Tunnel. Further south, the Kenai Peninsula was the first in line for the storm front and extremely dangerous conditions are being reported area-wide, including:

1. Anchor Point – 8” to 10” of snow with 30mph winds, snow drifts and poor visibility.

2. Seward – Over 1’ of snow, 40mph winds, extreme blizzard conditions

3. Homer – 60mph gusts, 6’ to 7’ drifts, extreme driving conditions, schools and offices closed.

4. Kodiak – 38 degree F winds, rain on ice, Airport currently closed  

“DOT&PF road crews and equipment have been fully deployed since the onset of the storm and will remain on the job as we work to bring road conditions back to the safe and acceptable condition the public expects,” said DOT&PF Commissioner Marc Luiken.

ADOT&PF advises folks in these areas to avoid driving if at all possible, but if you have to drive, expect extremely difficult wintertime driving conditions, and to drive cautiously and at reduced speeds.  In addition, drivers can expect to encounter road crews and plow trucks, and should exercise caution.

Updates on road conditions can be found at the 511.alaska.gov website or by dialing 511 on your telephone. Further new releases will follow this as additional information is available.    

For more information, contact Rick Feller, DOT&PF Central Region public information officer, @ (907) 269-0772, rick.feller@alaska.gov, or (907) 632-9198 (cell).    

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