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Road crews begin clearing only road access to Alaska pipeline city; avalanches blocked roadway

Alaska highway officials say road crews have begun clearing the only road into the city at the end of the trans-Alaska pipeline which was blocked after avalanches.

Valdez (val-DEEZ') has been cut off by road for more than a week. Avalanches on Jan. 24 completely blocked the Richardson Highway near Mile 39 and in Keystone Canyon near Mile 12.

The canyon avalanche dammed the Lowe River and created a lake that prevented equipment from reaching fallen snow.

Water drained or returned to the river bed Thursday, allowing crews to begin removing snow Friday on both sides of the slide. Workers are carrying avalanche beacons.

Snow was piled more than 40 feet high on up to 1,500 feet of the highway.

The state Department of Transportation also is conducting stability tests on the road.

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