Incredible Post-Avalanche Photo Shows What It Will Take To Clear Idaho's Highway 21

Mar 12, 2014

Underneath all that snow, ice, and tree debris is Idaho's Highway 21. Somewhere. This dramatic image from the Idaho Department of Transportation shows just how much work is ahead for road crews in clearing off a 12-mile section of the scenic road south of Stanley. That orange dot near the middle of the image is an ITD crew member.

The Department estimates they've had eight separate avalanches within the last several days deposit a massive amount of snow and debris. Department spokesperson Reed Hollinshead says at its deepest, there is an estimated 50-to-60 feet of snow and tree parts sitting on Highway 21.

"This is about as bad as I’ve seen in the last decade," Hollinshead says.

This stretch of Highway 21 is nicknamed 'avalanche alley.' That's because there are 54 avalanche chutes, or tracks, high above the road on the mountainside. Hollinshead says up until the mid 1980s, this entire stretch of Highway 21 was closed to all traffic for the winter. Now, it gets closed periodically during heightened avalanche danger.

Idaho Department of Transportation crews are just starting work to reopen the road, and it could take several weeks to clear.

Clarification: March 13, This photo has been changed from the original post because the Idaho Transportation Department sent us one that had been pieced together. It made the slide appear bigger but ITD says it was an inadvertent error.

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