Plow crews clear Glacier National Park thoroughfare

In this photo taken Wednesday, June 5, 2019, an excavator removes remnants of The Big Drift east of Logan Pass on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Mont. Crews finished clearing the 80-foot deep drift Wednesday morning. The road will still need repairs and won't be open to traffic until at least June 22, park officials said.

WEST GLACIER, Mont. (AP) — Crews plowing Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road from the east and west sides have met near the middle, finishing the bulk of the snow removal project this year.

The crews on Wednesday broke through the "big drift," a site east of Logan Pass where snow depths reach between 40 and 80 feet (12 and 24 meters), officials said.

The section on the 50-mile (80-kilometer) road is where the crews from the two sides usually meet, but this year they did it two days earlier than last.

The teams started clearing snow in early April, using excavators to reduce the walls to manageable levels. They then used snowplows to clear the rest.

"I've never jumped out of a plane before, but I have to imagine it's a similar rush," crew member Thomas Bearchild told the Missoulian . "When you clear the road, it's a drop-off to your left, and an avalanche to your right. You feel like you're on top of the world."

The road cuts across steep mountain terrain, so avalanches are a constant threat to the road crews. The conditions this year were favorable, and the plowing was conducted without incident, said Brian Paul, the road works leader.

"Every year is a challenge," said Stan Stahr, the park's roads supervisor. "You have to take it day by day. And some days, minute by minute."

The park expects to reopen the road June 22 following a $9 million pavement preservation project on the road.

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