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February 2014 Archives

Sunrises and Avalanches

February 8, 2014

I spent a day in Valdez this past week. Before my meetings started, I found a coffee stand and parked at Dock Point to watch the sun rise while sipping a mediocre mocha and eating a less-than-mediocre bagel.

It was beautiful

The best thing about Valdez is that it's completely surrounded by mountains, and is so very quiet in the winter, much like most Alaskan fishing cities.

Except two weeks ago Valdez had more than its share of winter excitement when multiple avalanches crossed the only road into Valdez and cut the city off from the road system for 12 days. The avalanches also dammed the river next to the highway, flooding Keystone Canyon.

The Department of Transportation reopened the highway the day before I flew into Valdez, and I was glad to find time to drive out of town and take a look at the avalanche area.

I wasn't the only one on the highway playing Avalanche Tourist. Many vehicles were driving very slowly through the canyon between towering piles of densely packed snow.

There were large construction signs on either side of the canyon warning people: AVALANCHE AREA / DO NOT STOP. Some people stopped their vehicles right in the middle of the canyon, and others even exited their cars to get a better look.

I did not stop my car in the avalanche area, and I did not get out of the car. My husband and the rental car company would not have appreciated that.

But I understand the desire, even as dangerous as it is: an avalanche is a huge and powerful force, and it's amazing to be close to that power.

I did get some amazing photos as I drove through, even though it's hard to see the sheer amount of snow because there's nothing really to compare it to in the images (had I stopped and gotten out and used my camera timer and done an avalanche selfie...).

Here is one way to gauge the size of the roadside snow: in the last three images you can see dark poles with yellow tops. Each of those poles stick out of the ground about 10 feet.

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Hi, I'm Valette

I'm a photographer based out of Anchorage, Alaska. I've recently become a wife, a stepmother, and a homeowner. Life is pretty awesome. You can email me anytime. Learn more...

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