[Vision2020] ‘Yes, there’s a highway under that snow’: Avalanches up to 50 feet deep bury Idaho road
moscowcares at moscow.com
Mon Mar 4 14:42:29 PST 2019
Courtesy of the Idaho Statesman at:
‘Yes, there’s a highway under that snow’: Avalanches up to 50 feet deep bury Idaho road
The road between two Idaho mountain towns may look like a ski hill, but Idaho Transportation Department officials promise there’s a highway in there somewhere.
“Here’s a shot of ID-21 today between Lowman and Stanley,” the department tweeted Monday morning. “Yes, there’s a highway under that snow. This avalanche slide is 40’ deep and 1/4 mile long!”
Department spokesman Jake Melder said the avalanche slide in the photo is one of several keeping Idaho 21 closed between mileposts 93 and 105, an area sometimes called Avalanche Alley.
“Avalanches in that area are common,” Melder said. “Avalanches of this magnitude, it does take a pretty special (weather) event to cause that.”
According to Melder, parts of the road are covered in as much as 50 feet of snow and debris.
That portion of the road has been closed intermittently since early February, when storms left feet of snow across the mountains. Melder said the road was closed Feb. 24 when a weekend storm dropped 5 feet of new snow in the area.
“It’s hard to say when the first slide happened,” Melder said. “We’re not going to put our (equipment) operators in an active slide area.”
It’s also hard to say when the road will reopen. Crews have been working on the stretch of highway since Friday, managing to clear about one mile of the 11-mile closure, Melder said. But more snowy weather is in the forecast for the mountains midweek, which could bring even more precipitation or destabilize existing snowpiles.
“We don’t know the full scope of what the slides are,” Melder said.
So how does ITD address such a massive cleanup effort?
Melder said the department first used explosives to test whether the snow would slide — and it did. Now officials are using snowplows, snowblowers and loaders to push, throw and transport the snow away.
“Basically, we take it layer by layer,” Melder said.
In the meantime, Melder emphasized that the public must stay out of the closed area.
“It’s really important that people obey the closure,” he said. “This is Idaho, we love the backcountry. But it’s a really difficult situation up there.”
He advised not only motorists to steer clear of the slides, but also snowmobilers, skiers and drone pilots.
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