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April 20, 2014

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Drainage slows on highway lake formed by avalanche

Updated Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 | 11:35 a.m.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — 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.