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Snow, wind pummel towns in Prince William Sound area

Mike Dunham

Anchorage residents may fret over a few inches of snow. But the citizens of Prince William Sound were getting their snow by the foot on Thursday.

"We're calling it 'Snowpocalypse,' " said J.R. Lewis, owner of KLAM and KCDV radio stations in Cordova. "We have a drift that's gotta be 8 or 9 feet high at the station and our transmitter shack is almost completely buried."

The snow wasn't just falling but blowing around creating white-out conditions. The Cordova Police Department asked drivers to stay off the road for a while said dispatcher Nancy Gentry. "The snowplows were not running because visibility was only 10 or 15 feet," she said.

As soon as Lewis broadcast that announcement, Cordova businesses started shutting down, he said. "They wanted to give their employees a chance to get home while they could still see."

Cordova had it easy compared with Valdez, where a winter storm warning was in effect through this morning. The NOAA forecast called for an accumulation of up to 30 inches and advised that visibility would be severely limited. It advised travelers to "keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency."

"Thompson Pass is difficult, but still open," said Wendy Zwickl at NOAA's Valdez office. "Visibility is between a quarter mile and white-out all over the zone."

"We've had 13 inches of snow so far today," she said at about 4 p.m. Thursday. "Most of the roads in town have 6 to 8 inches of snow on them.

"Of course the schools don't close for snow here."

Why would they? Valdez gets 321.7 inches over the course of a normal winter. The alltime record for the season, set in 1989-90, is 560.7 inches -- a little over 46 feet.

However, Zwickl noted, this season's total snowfall of 246.6 inches, recorded as of 2 p.m. Thursday, was 18.1 inches higher than the measurement for the same date during that record-setting winter.

Valdez roads and walkways have already taken on the look of canyons and tunnels that give the town its peculiar winter charm. Residents were spending a lot of time shoveling, Zwickl said.

"It's been kind of a physical month," she said. "And it just started."

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.

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