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Drainage slows on Alaska highway lake created by avalanche; access to city remains cut off

  • A photo released Wednesday Jan. 29, 2014, by the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities and made on Jan. 25, 2014, shows road crews beginning the job of clearing the closed Richardson Highway, near Valdez, Alaska.  At least a dozen avalanches dumped snow on sections of the roadway Friday along 27 miles of the highway, the only road access to the city at the end of the trans-Alaska pipeline.(AP Photo/Alaska DOT&PF)

    A photo released Wednesday Jan. 29, 2014, by the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities and made on Jan. 25, 2014, shows road crews beginning the job of clearing the closed Richardson Highway, near Valdez, Alaska. At least a dozen avalanches dumped snow on sections of the roadway Friday along 27 miles of the highway, the only road access to the city at the end of the trans-Alaska pipeline.(AP Photo/Alaska DOT&PF)  (The Associated Press)

  • A aerial photo released Wednesday Jan. 29, 2014, by the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities and made on Jan. 25, 2014,shows the path of an avalanche above the closed Richardson Highway, at Mile 39 near Valdez, Alaska.  The Alaska Department of Transportation announced crews had begun removing snow from the major slide, one of many that have blocked the highway, the only road access to Val;dez, the city at the end of the trans-Alaska pipeline.(AP Photo/Alaska DOT&PF)

    A aerial photo released Wednesday Jan. 29, 2014, by the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities and made on Jan. 25, 2014,shows the path of an avalanche above the closed Richardson Highway, at Mile 39 near Valdez, Alaska. The Alaska Department of Transportation announced crews had begun removing snow from the major slide, one of many that have blocked the highway, the only road access to Val;dez, the city at the end of the trans-Alaska pipeline.(AP Photo/Alaska DOT&PF)  (The Associated Press)

  • APhoto released Wednesday Jan. 29, 2014, by the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities and made on Jan. 25, 2014, is of snow and ice covering the closed Richardson Highway, near Valdez, Alaska.   One of a number of avalanches covered the roadway in the Keystone Canyon, closing the only road access to Valdez, the city at the end of the trans-Alaska pipeline.  Alaska authorities said snow 40 feet deep and 1,000 to 1,500 feet long covered the highway. (AP Photo/Alaska DOT&PF)

    APhoto released Wednesday Jan. 29, 2014, by the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities and made on Jan. 25, 2014, is of snow and ice covering the closed Richardson Highway, near Valdez, Alaska. One of a number of avalanches covered the roadway in the Keystone Canyon, closing the only road access to Valdez, the city at the end of the trans-Alaska pipeline. Alaska authorities said snow 40 feet deep and 1,000 to 1,500 feet long covered the highway. (AP Photo/Alaska DOT&PF)  (The Associated Press)

The Alaska Department of Transportation says draining has slowed on a lake formed when an avalanche blocked a river and cut off access to an Alaska town.

An avalanche Friday fell onto the Richardson Highway, the only road into Valdez (val-DEEZ'), and dammed the Lowe River.

Transportation spokeswoman Hannah Blankenship says water behind the avalanche has receded from 2,500 feet to 1,500 feet.

But she says the water is now draining at just 3 inches per hour, down from 5 inches per hour Tuesday.

Water dammed behind the avalanche is preventing heavy equipment from reaching snow piled 40 feet high on the highway.

Crews have not removed snow from the downstream side. Officials say collapsing the snow dam could trigger a surge of water and put crews in danger.