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Subject:   Avalanche on Highway 20 Blocks Access to Diablo
For Immediate Release:   
1/30/2008  2:00:00 PM
For More Information Contact:


SEATTLE - Approximately 75 people affected by road closure

An avalanche on State Road 20 between the Seattle City Light towns of Newhalem and Diablo has isolated part of the Skagit Hydroelectric Project. No injuries were reported and no one is considered to be in any danger. However, City Light workers in the town of Diablo are cut off by snow on the east and west along Highway 20.

The road closure does not affect the hydroelectric dam operations on the Skagit and no interruption in power from the Skagit dams is expected.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) closed the highway yesterday after heavy snow falls over the last few days increased the danger of an avalanche. The road was reported to be blocked by a snow avalanche today. WSDOT avalanche control personnel are on site assessing the situation.

The Seattle City Light Skagit Hydroelectric Project is located 120 miles northeast of Seattle and includes three dams and powerhouses on the upper Skagit River in Whatcom County. SR 20 is the only land route into the project. In the winter, SR 20 is closed by WSDOT east of Diablo, but the road to the west normally remains open year around.

The town of Diablo is home to about 23 Seattle City Light workers and their families. City Light maintains several facilities including a powerhouse and a cookhouse in the town of Diablo. These facilities are accessible to anyone stranded by the closure and are well-stocked for emergency closures such as this.

The adjoining Environmental Learning Center, operated by North Cascades Institute, has 50 personnel on site; a combination of adult students and staff. The Institute is well stocked and is coordinating with SCL for any assistance and supplies.

The Skagit Hydroelectric Project dams and powerhouses can be operated remotely from Seattle including the automatic spill gates on the dams. "There are sufficient personnel in Diablo to operate the spill gates manually in the unlikely event that was necessary," says project manager Dave Bowers. "Rock slides and avalanches are not unusual along this stretch of highway. We are prepared for situations like this. We are prepared to bring supplies in by helicopter."

In October 2003, a extensive rainfall caused damage and rockslides to SR 20 in the same area of the current slide. Diablo was cut off for weeks before the road could be repaired and the mountainside stabilized. City Light was able to operate the hydroelectric project normally during that period.

For more information, contact Peter Clarke (206) 684-3602.



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