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Avalanche advisory in effect for Turnagain Pass area following temporary highway closure

 (KTUU)
(KTUU) (KTUU)
Published: Jan. 1, 2020 at 9:12 PM AKST
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A vicious winter storm shut down the Seward Highway in both directions between the Girdwood turnoff and the Portage area early Wednesday morning through early Wednesday afternoon, according to the Department of Transportation.

Girdwood Fire Department Fire Chief Michelle Weston says Wednesday’s conditions were the worst she's seen on the Seward Highway in 22 years in terms of visibility and snow accumulation.

Weston says they only responded to two crashes between Anchorage and Girdwood, and the ambulance transports took double the normal amount of time because drivers could barely see the road. That's when Weston called Anchorage police asking them to close the road.

Weston says drivers have been trapped by avalanches on Seward Highway before, and commuters who do have to travel that stretch of road should have an emergency kit in their vehicles just in case.

“Make sure that if you were stuck between avalanches and waiting for rescue, you have enough gas in your car so you weren’t on empty and you could keep warm,” Weston said. “Also gloves, winter gear, some food, and a good communication device."

Just last week, DOT released an application update to

. They recommend installing the app to get up-to-date information on road conditions.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story cited an avalanche advisory from the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center as reason for caution for Seward Highway commuters. The CNFAI forecasts backcountry avalanche danger. Their forecasts should not be confused with highway conditions. Please refer to the Department of Transportation's 511 information system for traffic advisories, including avalanche warnings.
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