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Denali Park Road closes for snow and ice for second time

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Posted: Sunday, September 9, 2012 11:41 pm | Updated: 11:21 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Mother Nature is giving late-summer tourists in Denali National Park and Preserve an early taste of winter.

For the second time in four days, the only road leading into Denali National Park and Preserve was closed because of snow and ice on Sunday.

This time, the road was closed to westbound traffic at 3 Mile of the 92-mile Denali Park Road. The closure was a result of treacherous conditions at 7 Mile, according to the National Park Service. The road was reopened to 92 Mile at around 3 p.m. when most of the snow and ice melted, park spokeswoman Missy Smothers in Talkeetna said.

On Thursday, the road was closed at the Toklat River at 53 Mile after up to 4 inches of snow fell at higher elevations in the western portion of the 6 million-acre park. The road was reopened later in the day when the snow melted.

While there was snow and ice on the road at 7 Mile, it didn’t even frost at park headquarters at 3 Mile, Jori Welchans at the Denali visitors center said.

This is the final week of the tourist season in Denali, Smothers said. Tour buses are scheduled to stop operating on Thursday, she said.

It remains to be seen if the road will be open for the four-day Denali Road Lottery, which is scheduled to begin on Friday. During the lottery — winners were drawn back in July — up to 400 vehicles per day are permitted to drive the length of the 92-mile road, weather permitting.

“Who knows what the weather will do?” Smothers said.

The good news for lottery winners is that a chinook is expected to blow into the Interior starting on Friday, which should eliminate any snow that accumulates on the road during the week and prevent any new snow from falling, meteorologist Bob Fischer with the National Weather Service in Fairbanks said. Temperatures could climb into the 60s during the weekend, he said.

“If there’s any snow left there Friday it will get eaten up pretty quickly,” Fischer said.

Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587.

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