The first big storm of the winter buried Anchorage and much of the rest of Southcentral Alaska in wet, heavy snow on Wednesday, slowing traffic and busting the city’s snowfall record for the day.
About 8.5 inches fell between midnight and 4 p.m. at the National Weather Service station on Sand Lake Road. The previous daily record for Dec. 12 was 7.1 inches in 1949, according to online Weather Service records.
The snow storm began Tuesday night, making for sloppy parking lots and spinning wheels across the city Wednesday. It had largely faded by early afternoon with Anchorage police reporting a relatively light day for traffic mayhem and accidents.
Police responded to 39 accidents — three with injuries — and 139 “vehicles in distress” by 5:15 p.m., said Lt. David Parker, a department spokesman. APD sometimes fields 200 to 300 reports of distressed vehicles or cars in ditches on a particularly bad snow day, he said.
People Mover buses ran 15 to 20 minutes late, with even longer waits on some routes, said spokeswoman Paula Kangis. “Although we’ve had a few buses get stuck, we’ve had zero accidents,” she wrote in an email.
Valley Mover, which provides public transportation between the Mat-Su and Anchorage, reported delays due to slick conditions and accidents on the Glenn Highway.
Troopers had responded to two injury accidents Wednesday morning but said they received fewer phone calls than expected. “People may have heeded the warnings and slowed down, and maybe just gave themselves a little time,” said spokeswoman Beth Ipsen.
Forecasters were surprised to see comparatively light snowfall in the upper Hillside. Instead, the deepest trenches came in Midtown where 11 inches had fallen as of 4 p.m. at the KTVA Channel 11 station between Spenard Road and Arctic Boulevard.
“This ended up being really an Anchorage Bowl special, with the snow amounts,” said Christian Cassell, a Weather Service meteorologist in Anchorage.
All of the city’s snow-removal equipment and crews were deployed, with cleanup beginning around 3 a.m., said Lindsey Whitt, a spokeswoman for Mayor Dan Sullivan.
School district buses also ran behind schedule and some schools chose to cancel evening events, said district spokeswoman Heidi Embley. “For the most part, sports activities are still a go.”
Students had hoped in vain that new superintendent Jim Browder — as a recent Florida transplant — would cancel classes, she said.
On Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, civilian employees were told they could take leave and hit the road early due to snow conditions. The base was otherwise unaffected, said spokesman Bob Hall.
“It’s snow, it’s Alaska. We drive in the snow all winter,” Hall said.
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