Snow chokes Glenn Highway to one lane at Arctic Valley

Mike Dunham

A dump of snow topping a foot in some areas bedeviled Anchorage drivers as Alaska's biggest city got a taste of the continuing blizzard that residents of Prince William Sound have dubbed "The Snowpocalypse."

The Glenn Highway was "choked down" to one lane for a while Sunday, according to the Anchorage Police Department, with numerous accidents and vehicles in distress or in the snow-clogged ditches in the vicinity of Fort Richardson.

The Department of Transportation issued a warning for "difficult driving conditions" from Eklutna to Bird and Indian. A special statement from the National Weather Service described "very hazardous driving conditions" on the Glenn.

As the snow began to taper off on Sunday afternoon, the weather service's Don Moore said the Hillside had received 14 inches for the day with 8 inches falling in West Anchorage.

While the quantity of snow was not insignificant, the driving problem had more to do with the quality of the precipitation, which Moore described as "very light and fluffy." Light winds and traffic stirred it into powdery clouds causing near whiteout conditions. Drivers had difficulty making out the roads, snow berms, medians and the taillights of vehicles ahead of them. At one point APD estimated visibility at 20 feet.

The stopping distance for a car traveling at 25 miles an hour on snow is estimated at between 90 and 100 feet.

Anchorage will have to receive another 51 1/2 inches to match the city's all time record of 132.8 inches set in 1954-1955. Fifty of those inches came in February 1955.

By early Sunday afternoon the city had received a season total of 81.3 inches, 40 inches above normal levels of 41.3 inches. On Jan. 8 last year, the total stood at 35.7 inches.

In Valdez, which has borne the brunt of the storm, the season total on Sunday hit 290.1 inches. "This is 146 inches above normal," said Moore. "Last year at this time Valdez had 84.3 inches."

Moore also said that 152.2 inches fell in the month of December, breaking the previous December record by 15 inches. The season record for Valdez is 561 inches, set in 1989-1990.

After the blizzard that shut off the only highway into town on Friday, Valdez reported a snow depth of 81 inches and was bracing for more.

The snow eased off over the weekend in the Prince William Sound area, said Moore, "but it looks like Cordova and Valdez will be dealing with a snowy period running into Friday of this week. The bulk looks like it's going to fall on Tuesday. They're going to get a pretty good slug."

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.

Anchorage Daily News