Rare Avalanche Barrage in Idaho Shuts Down Highways, Trapping Residents For Days

Pam Wright
Published: February 15, 2017

An aerial view of Idaho Highway 75, where multiple avalanches closed the highway, stranding residents in the area.
(Idaho Department of Transportation)

A rare series of avalanches have closed at least two highways in Idaho, trapping residents in their homes for days.

According to the Idaho Transportation Department, the avalanches prompted officials to shut down Highway 75 from Stanley to Clayton in central Idaho.

Highway 21 between Stanley and Lowman is also closed from multiple avalanches, with snow measuring 60 feet in some locations on the highway.

It could take “several more days of clean-up” before the road re-opens, ITD communications specialist Jennifer Gonzalez told the Idaho Statesman on Monday.

Clean up efforts might be hindered with another snow system that could drop up to a foot of snow beginning Wednesday night and continuing off and on through the weekend, says weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce.

John Keyes, a staff meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Pocatello, Idaho, told weather.com that the closure is unusual on Highway 75.

"This is the first year in a very long time that Idaho 75 has been closed like this," Keyes said. "Some people haven't been able to leave their homes in days."

According to the Idaho Statesman, the highway as been closed since Feb. 9 when officials shut down the road north of Stanley because of avalanche dangers. 

Another impressive aerial view of the avalanches in Idaho.
(Idaho Department of Transportation)

It remains unclear how long the highways will remain closed, said Gonzales, noting that the department can’t send in crews while there’s still a risk of more avalanches.

In just 3.5 months since Oct. 1, Stanley has picked up 30 percent more precipitation than an entire year's average precipitation of 12.18 inches, says weather.com meteorologist Jon Erdman.

"If that wasn't enough, water locked up in the snowpack is running up to 170 percent of average for mid-February, and there's more heavy snow on the way for Idaho's high country into next week," Erdman said. 

A meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Idaho says the avalanches on Highway 75 are unusual.
(Idaho Department of Transportation)

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