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Whiteout closes highway; wind batters Hillside

Casey Grove
Wind drifted snow forms along side the road to the small boat launch in Anchorage on Friday, January 13, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Don Guthrie, Frampton and Opinsky, blows snow off the sidewalks in front of 420 L Street as another big snow fall hit the Anchorage, AK area on Thursday, January 12, 2012. Anchorage has received an official 81.3 inches of snow at the airport measuring station as of Tuesday. Meteorologist Shaun Baines said that makes it the snowiest period for Anchorage since records have been kept.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Wind-deposited snow rises to almost four feet against an Anchorage Hillside garage door on Tuesday afternoon, January 10, 2012.
Richard J. Murphy
Wind drifted snow forms along side the road to the small boat launch in Anchorage on Friday, January 13, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Don Guthrie, Frampton and Opinsky, blows snow off the sidewalks in front of 420 L Street as another big snow fall hit the Anchorage, AK area on Thursday, January 12, 2012. Anchorage has received an official 81.3 inches of snow at the airport measuring station as of Tuesday. Meteorologist Shaun Baines said that makes it the snowiest period for Anchorage since records have been kept.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
In the lee of winds gusting to over 80 mph, ice builds up on an Anchorage HIllside doorway Tuesday afternoon, January 12, 2012.
Richard J. Murphy
Snow drapes the broad shoulders of Atlas on the roof of the Anchorage Fur Factory in Downtown Anchorage on Friday, January 13, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Ron Kahl, of Straightline Pavement Maintenance, shovel the sidewalk in front of The 5th Avenue Building as another big snow fall hit the Anchorage, AK area on Thursday, January 12, 2012. Anchorage has received an official 81.3 inches of snow at the airport measuring station as of Tuesday. Meteorologist Shaun Baines said that makes it the snowiest period for Anchorage since records have been kept.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Drifting snow blocks an Anchorage Hillside home on Tuesday afternoon, January 10, 2012.
Richard J. Murphy
Mountain View during the snowstorm on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Shane Duff and Ralph Barger, of Straightline Pavement Maintenance, shovel the sidewalk in front of The 5th Avenue Building as another big snow fall hit the Anchorage, AK area on Thursday, January 12, 2012. Anchorage has received an official 81.3 inches of snow at the airport measuring station as of Tuesday. Meteorologist Shaun Baines said that makes it the snowiest period for Anchorage since records have been kept.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
The sun sets through a pane of glass plastered with frozen streaks of wind-blown snow on the Anchorage Hillside Tuesday afternoon, January 10, 2012.
Richard J. Murphy
Ron Rohl blows snow off the roof of The Odom Corporation Coca Cola Alaska headquarters building near Ship Creek on Friday, January 13, 2012. This is the second time this year that the roof has been cleared of snow.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
A snow machine rests on the side walk next to the Captain Cook Hotel after a two vehicle accident on 5th Avenue as another big snow fall hit the Anchorage, AK area on Thursday, January 12, 2012. The snow machine was on the back of a pickup truck involved in the accident. Anchorage has received an official 81.3 inches of snow at the airport measuring station. Meteorologist Shaun Baines said that makes it the snowiest period for Anchorage since records have been kept.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Snow drifts around the caretaker's building at the Glen Alps trailhead of Chugach State Park late Monday, January 9, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Dale Fine shovels the sidewalk around his apartment in Mountain View during a snowstorm on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Bartender Carolyn Joy shovels out the front of Gwennie's Old Alaska Restaurant as another big snow fall hit the Anchorage, AK area on Thursday, January 12, 2012. Anchorage has received an official 81.3 inches of snow at the airport measuring station. Meteorologist Shaun Baines said that makes it the snowiest period for Anchorage since records have been kept.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Snow drifts around trees and blows from Chugach Mountain ridges in this view from near the Glen Alps Trailhead late Monday, January 9, 2011.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Dale Fine shovels the sidewalk around his apartment in Mountain View during a snowstorm on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Dave Bronson sweeps snow of the wing of a friends plane on Lake Hood as another big snow fall hit the Anchorage, AK area on Thursday, January 12, 2012. Anchorage has received an official 81.3 inches of snow at the airport measuring station. Meteorologist Shaun Baines said that makes it the snowiest period for Anchorage since records have been kept.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Traffic moves slowly on Hillside Drive Tuesday afternoon, January 10, 2011, as strong wind and blowing snow create low visibility.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News
Mountain View during the snowstorm on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Layers of snow are evident on in snow atop a motor home in west Anchorage as another big snow fall hit the Anchorage area on Thursday, January 12, 2012. Anchorage has received an official 81.3 inches of snow at the airport measuring station as of Tuesday. Meteorologist Shaun Baines said that makes it the snowiest period for Anchorage since records have been kept.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
A pedestrian walks down a snow covered street in Mountain View during the snowstorm on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Onofre Jimenez shovels a friend's driveway in Mt. View duringThursday's (January 12, 2012) snowstorm.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mountain View during the snowstorm on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
14-year-old Doug Hamrick shovels snow off of his family's roof Thursday, Jan.12, 2012, in Anchorage. The National Weather Service is predicting a total snowfall of 8 to 16 inches today, putting Anchorage on track to have the snowiest winter on record.
Loren Holmes / AP2012
Mountain View during the snowstorm on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
An Alaska Railroad plow clears the tracks along the Seward Highway next to Turnagain Arm near Bird on Wednesday, January 11,
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Onofre Jimenez shovels a friend's driveway in Mountain View during the snowstorm on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Another significant snow storm is reducing visibility for drivers in Anchorage on Thursday morning, Jan. 12, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Mountain View during the snowstorm on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Clouds hang low over the Kenai Mountains across from the Seward Highway next to Turnagain Arm on Wednesday, January 11,
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Paul Bergeron clears some snow off a roof while doing a siding job in Mountain View on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
An accident on 5th Avenue near the Captain Cook hotel resulted in a snowmachine landing on the sidewalk of the hotel. A pickup truck carrying the snowmachine was involved in the crash with a car early afternoon, Thursday, January 12, 2012.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Traffic moves down Minnesota Drive as another big snow fall hit the Anchorage, AK area on Thursday, January 12, 2012. Anchorage has received an official 81.3 inches of snow at the airport measuring station as of Tuesday. Meteorologist Shaun Baines said that makes it the snowiest period for Anchorage since records have been kept.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Traffic moves along the the Seward Highway next to Turnagain Arm after the an avalanche was cleared from the road just after noon on Wednesday, January 11,
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Steve Vogel blows snow off the roof of The Odom Corporation Coca Cola Alaska headquarters building near Ship Creek on Friday, January 13, 2012. This is the second time this year that the roof has been cleared of snow.
Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News
Snow plows drive drive down L Street as another big snow fall hit the Anchorage, AK area on Thursday, January 12, 2012. Anchorage has received an official 81.3 inches of snow at the airport measuring station as of Tuesday. Meteorologist Shaun Baines said that makes it the snowiest period for Anchorage since records have been kept.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Wind howling in the Bear Valley area left a vehicle stuck on Clark's Road near Rabbit Creek Road on Tuesday afternoon, January 10, 2012.
Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News

With a winter windstorm battering Anchorage's Hillside on Tuesday, the state transportation department said the Seward Highway would remain closed south of the city until about noon today due to whiteout conditions, snowdrifts on the roadway and the potential for avalanches hitting the highway.

The highway was closed Tuesday morning from Potter Marsh to Girdwood because of whiteout conditions and two small avalanches near McHugh Creek. Late in the day,, the road was opened from Anchorage to near Bird Creek, but was expected to remain closed between Mile 90 at Girdwood and Mile 100 near Bird Creek, according to the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Debris from two small avalanches reached the highway's northbound lane near McHugh Creek early Tuesday. Crews cleaned that up and later fired artillery into mountains just north of Bird Point to release a larger avalanche, said DOT spokesman Rick Feller. The slide covered the entire highway and still needed to be cleared late Tuesday, Feller said. And before traffic could pass through, further scouting for avalanche danger would have to occur during the daylight hours today, he said.

"It's obviously better for all if an avalanche is triggered in a controlled setting while the road is closed to lower the risk for everyone," Feller said.

The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, which connects the city of Whittier to the state highway system, is also closed until at least 7 a.m. today, depending on the weather, Feller said.

The Anchorage School District canceled bus routes Tuesday that run along Turnagain Arm. In a written statement, the district said it would reassess the possibility of buses today between Girdwood and Anchorage if the Seward Highway reopened.

Meanwhile, high winds battered Anchorage's Hillside and Turnagain Arm all day Tuesday. A weather station at Glen Alps recorded a gust of nearly 104 mph about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to the weather service.

Hillside residents said they were hunkering down to avoid driving in the blinding snow, and a man in Bear Valley said he was blown from his feet while walking to help a neighbor.

Another man, Bob Sutherland, said he decided to stay at his home near Upper DeArmoun Road after a harrowing drive to town and back Tuesday morning.

"In the span of just a few minutes, the wind kicked up and I couldn't see the road due to the blowing snow ... I just couldn't see the road surface," Sutherland wrote in an email. "The winds are strong and have been gathering force all day."

The highway closures and hurricane-force wind are just part of another powerful storm socking Southcentral and areas to the south in an Alaska winter already characterized by extreme weather.

Areas including Turnagain Pass and Portage Valley, were under a blizzard warning, with snow and high wind possible, the weather service said.

More than a foot of snow fell in Seward -- where the city warned boat owners to shovel their vessels at the risk of the snow causing capsizing -- and 6- to 7-foot snowdrifts were reported around Homer, Feller said.

In Kodiak, the airport was closed due to slippery surfaces from snow melting atop ice, according to the DOT. Marty Owen, Kodiak's harbor master, said huge puddles had formed all over town and the heavy, water-laden snow had caused three local boats -- including a house boat -- to capsize.

Power outages on the Kenai Peninsula, including one near Sterling and the other between Anchor Point and Homer, affected a total of about 110 customers Tuesday morning, reported Homer Electric Association. By 2:15 p.m., HEA was still working on restoring power to three customers.

The Peninsula community of Hope was without power about midday, and a brief outage struck Girdwood earlier, according to Chugach Electric.

Many areas of Alaska were under severe-weather warnings Tuesday morning, with blizzard conditions and heavy snow from Western Alaska and portions of the Interior all the way to Haines and Juneau in Southeast.

Valdez, already hit hard by snow this winter, was forecast to get up to 20 inches, by Wednesday night, according to the weather service.

Reader photos: 2011 Alaska winter
By CASEY GROVE
Anchorage Daily News / adn.com