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Stranded students headed home after avalanche blocks highway

DOT crews begin clearing one lane of traffic on SR-20. (WSDOT image)

DIABLO, Wash. - A group of Everett students and teachers on a field trip near Lake Diablo in the North Cascades are on their way home after being stuck for days by an avalanche.

Transportation crews have cleared a single lane of Highway 20 in the North Cascades, allowing Henry M. Jackson High School students, and others stranded since Friday's snow slide to return home.

The 42 students who were on the field trip to the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center are "ecstatic" about heading home, especially 16-year-old Drew Finke who needed special medical supplies.

"I've just been a little low on supplies because I'm a Type 1 Diabetic. It's been pretty stressful, but they did manage to get a package up here. They hiked it up the avalanche," Drew said. "They got a couple people from the National Park Service to get to me, and that was really cool."

Emergency responders were able to get medication to all students who needed it, and along with 92 beds, the learning center had just received a shipment of food before the students arrived.

"Through the whole process we've felt like he been safe, he's been well taken care of," Drew's mother, Twani, said. "It's teenagers, and WIFI - they've got everything they possibly need."

Some parents were not as easy going as Twani, however, and had talked about hiking in, or chartering a float plan to bring their kids home.

The state transportation department said Monday afternoon the eastbound lane to Diablo has been cleared of the slide. Only emergency vehicles and people who got stranded after the slide will be able to use that road.

"Ultimately we are really glad that the kids are coming home safe, they are coming home as planned by the DOT," high school principal Dave Peters said. "That whole plan started out Friday and played out the way everyone had hoped."

Crews on Tuesday will begin clearing the westbound lane. It will take a couple of days before Highway 20 to Diablo is reopened to the public.

The highway remains closed for the winter between Diablo and Mazama.

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