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Crews clearing Denali Park road; mild winter means faster progress on snow removal

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Alaska's mild winter has made it easier for crews to clear the 92-mile road into Denali National Park and Preserve.

Crews began removing snow two weeks ago and report "pretty easy going," said Riley Tingue, east district road supervisor.

There's less snow and ice than usual on the road and in the ditches that line it, he told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/1jDu3dk ).

"Especially compared to last year," Tingue said. "It's been a very drastic, dramatic difference in the two years."

The Tanana River was not free of ice last year until May 20, about three week later than normal. Road crews were still plowing when bus service began in mid-May.

This year, the mild winter included a January thaw. Rain and temperatures above freezing left a sheet of ice 1 to 6 inches deep on the road but it has not posed a problem, Tingue said.

"Once you take the snow off it, the sun takes care of the rest," he said.

Clearing crews got a jump on the job because the Park Service has been plowing all winter to Mile 12.5 so visitors could have more winter opportunities.

The agency announced Thursday that the road is open to public traffic to Savage River at Mile 15. Crews as of Thursday had cleared the road to Mile 30.

"It's just been sunny and beautiful for the last couple of weeks," Tingue said. "It's a lot easier going. There are a lot of bare patches where there's no snow, and we're able to travel a half-mile at a time without putting the plow down."

Chances are good that the road will open to Teklanika Rest Area at Mile 30 earlier than previous years, Tingue said. The road typically opens to public traffic to Teklanika sometime in mid-April.

Park officials close the road on May 20 at Mile 15 when tour buses begin shuttling visitors deep into the park.


Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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