A large avalanche covered the Ricardson Highway near Thompson pass early Wednesday morning.

The Alaska Department of Transportation was forced to close the highway from mileposts 18 to 55. They say the avalanche happened at about 3:30 Wednesday morning. It's roughly 200 feet wide and about 20 feet deep. 

Meadow Bailey with the state's transportation department says crews are working to clear the highway on either side, but cannot begin working to clear the avalanche until the storm clears.

Conditions on Richardson Highway early Wednesday near Tazlina. Courtesy: ADOT&PF

Thompson Pass and the Copper River Basin are under a winter storm warning until 9 p.m. as heavy snow is likely into this evening. Additional storms will bring more snow to the area Thursday and Friday.  

Schools and state office buildings are closed Wednesday in Glennallen. 

The Valdez Avalanche Center issued a backcountry avalanche warning, which is in effect Wednesday through 9 a.m. Thursday. They say the avalanche danger is increasing from high to extreme, as heavy snow, combined with wind, will create widespread areas of unstable snow. Thompson Pass has received nearly 40 inches of snow this week. 

In Valdez, moderate to heavy snowfall continued Wednesday morning as temperatures sat in the low 30s.

Conditions in Valdez early Wednesday. Courtesy: ADOT&PF


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