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Heavy snow in Interior brings hazardous driving conditions

Blustery weather and an influx of fresh snow have created hazardous driving conditions in Interior Alaska and caused intermittent closures of highways north of Fairbanks.

The Steese Highway was closed Friday afternoon between Mile 86 and 101, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The latest storm was expected to drop 6 to 12 inches on the Fairbanks area through Friday night, the National Weather Service said.

The new snow was on top of more than 18 inches that fell earlier in the week.

And high winds -- gusts up to 50 mph Friday -- were whipping it all up, forecasters said.

Part of the Dalton Highway from the Interior to the North Slope oil fields was closed earlier in the week for the first time in many years. It was open as of Friday night, but travelers were strongly advised not to drive north of Mile 209.

"Part of that is avalanche danger in Atigun Pass," said Meadow Bailey, spokeswoman for the DOT's Fairbanks regional office.

Bailey, reached by phone just after she arrived home Friday, said the gusts blowing the snow around were the worst part.

"The wind's just blowing our door open, hold on just a second," Bailey said. "The wind has just been incredible."

Travel advisories for slick roads and blowing snow were also in effect for the Parks Highway from Mile 164 north.

Nearly every weather zone that the Weather Service's Fairbanks office monitors -- the half of Alaska north of Denali National Park and Preserve and west to Saint Lawrence Island -- had winter storm warnings or wind chill advisories for Friday and Saturday.

"We've gotten a lot of calls from people from plow companies, who want to know, 'Is it safe to start plowing?' " said Fairbanks forecaster Steven Kearney. "We had kind of a lull in the action this morning so we had to tell them, 'Well, better hold off, because we still have more on the way.' "

The Sunday and Monday snowfall in Fairbanks was the sixth-most over two days in more than 100 years for Alaska's second-largest city. This month's 25.1 inches compares to the monthly average of 6.6 inches, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Anchorage Daily News/