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Students blocked by avalanche to return home

Here's a look at what was blocking Highway 20 at milepost 123. (WSDOT Twitter)

The Washington State Department of Transportation re-opened one lane of Highway 20 after a large snow slide kept high school students on a field trip from returning home.

The 53 students and 17 staff members from Henry M. Jackson High in Mill Creek were visiting the North Cascade Institute on Friday and were supposed to return that night.

But a snow slide that day near mile post 122 on the North Cascades Highway trapped them, along with people in the towns of Newhalem and Diablo.

Throughout the weekend, conditions in the North Cascades deteriorated, but on Monday, WSDOT said conditions near slide area had stabilized enough for them to go in and begin removing the debris.

An excavator was brought in because in addition to snow, there are rocks, debris and tree limbs covering the entire highway.

Officials said they were cautiously optimistic that they can clear out at least one lane by late Monday or early Tuesdaym but one Monday afternoon, crews had been able to clear a lane.

Now that one lane is cleared, it won’t be open to the public – only for emergency vehicles and those who need to get out, including the stuck Henry M. Jackson students and staff.

Crews hope to have the road fully open by the end of this week.

Meanwhile, the field trip participants stayed safe and warm with food and wifi so they could keep in contact with home.

A parent told KIRO 7 they were updated daily with emails, phone calls and recorded messages.

No one was hurt in the slide.

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