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City digs out from storm

Posted: Friday, March 14, 2003

A day after a storm that dumped nearly 20 inches of snow on some parts of Juneau, airline flight schedules are back to normal, roads are plowed and avalanche danger has decreased, officials said this morning.

Thursday's storm, which brought heavy snow and rain as well as gusting winds to communities from Ketchikan to Haines, paralyzed air travel, delayed school buses, caused events and meetings to be canceled, and raised concerns about avalanches.

A related storm system brought severe wind and cold to Southcentral Alaska, grounding most flights.

"All the roads are passable (in Juneau). We had crews out until midnight last night and a full crew out this morning," Linda Keikkala, acting chief of maintenance and operations for the state Department of Transportation, said today. "The Juneau station crew should be commended for their work."

Mike Scott, Juneau's street superintendent, added that city crews would remove snow in the next few days near Juneau-Douglas High School and in the Riverside Drive and Tongass Boulevard areas. Scott asked that drivers be patient and aware of equipment operators.

Though all but one of the flights in and out of Juneau were canceled Thursday, flights have resumed and all are on schedule today, Alaska Airlines said.

Police reported two minor vehicle accidents Thursday, with no injuries.

Also, a city bus carrying a load of people around 11 a.m. Thursday slid sideways and got stuck in a snow bank near Glacier Highway and Anka Street. The bus blocked traffic for a few minutes, but the driver managed to rock it out of its rut and continued on his route, police said. No one was injured and no citations were issued.

Avalanche danger has greatly decreased, though hikers and backcountry skiers should exercise caution, said Bill Glude, director and lead avalanche specialist for the Southeast Alaska Avalanche Center.

"We didn't get the snow levels at the higher elevations we had expected. It would take a fair amount more snow to create large avalanches that would reach the lower elevations," he said.

Avalanche conditions could worsen if rain falls at the higher elevations, Glude said. State transportation officials plan to blast the avalanche area above Thane Road at 10:30 a.m. Saturday to lessen the chance of a major slide. Thane Road will be closed for about two hours, Keikkala said. Thane residents have been notified.

The National Weather Service has predicted temperatures will warm up by Saturday afternoon, forecasting a 50 percent chance of afternoon showers and a high temperature of 42 degrees.

Julia O'Malley can be reached at jomalley@juneauempire.com. Melanie Plenda contributed to this article.



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