Crews continue chipping away at avalanche
District 2 maintenance crews made steady progress this week tin removing debris from four avalanches that prompted closure of U.S. 12 between Lowell and Lolo Pass last week.
Efforts to reopen the route have been complicated by the threat of substantial new snow from a system that is forecast to move through the region beginning tonight and continuing through the weekend.
Avalanche experts working with ITD recommended today (Feb. 8) that removal of snow and debris from the highway be suspended because of safety concerns until the weather system passes. The route likely will remain closed through the weekend. With favorable conditions, it could reopen early next week.
“We’re doing everything we can to reopen the highway as soon as possible, but our primary concern is for the safety of motorists and our maintenance crews,” said District 2 Maintenance Engineer Doral Hoff. “Removing the debris has been a difficult challenge and our crews have done a remarkable job, especially with ongoing demands throughout the district.”
All available resources were committed this week to the U.S. 12 effort except for equipment and personnel needed to maintain and plow other routes in District 2.
ITD closed U.S. 12 on Jan. 31 after an avalanche covered the highway about 35 miles east of Lowell.
A dozen trucks were stranded by the first and three subsequent avalanches. All of the trucks have been removed, however one trailer – emptied of its contents – remains in the Lochsa River. Plans to remove the trailer were put on hold until conditions improve.
Although the highway is closed between Lowell and Lolo Pass, ITD has extended access from the east to the Lochsa Lodge for passenger vehicles only. Trucks still are prohibited west of Lolo Pass, Hoff said.
“We realize the closure has created a real hardship for people traveling from Lewiston to Missoula,” Hoff added. “It has been a long time since we have experienced conditions like these. We really appreciate the public’s patience and cooperation as we work on removing the avalanches.”
Two segments of U.S. 95 in north-central Idaho – from Lewiston to Moscow and between Grangeville and Cottonwood – reopened to traffic earlier today, although there still is a potential for blowing and drifting snow.