Road conditions improve after icy morning in Mat-Su

Zaz Hollander

3:15 p.m. update:

Main roads in the Mat-Su had improved to wet pavement by Tuesday afternoon. Side roads were reportedly still slick but not as treacherous as earlier in the day. A school district transportation official said bus drivers hadn't called in any problems by mid-afternoon.


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WASILLA -- A persistent drizzle falling on frozen ground Thursday morning left Mat-Su roads with an icy glaze that made for a treacherous morning commute and put several school buses in the ditch.

Alaska State Troopers and Wasilla police had responded to 19 traffic-related incidents since midnight, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said just before 9 a.m.

A troopers captain working in the Valley described road conditions as "horrible," Peters said, urging drivers to slow down and leave plenty of space between vehicles. "When responding to (vehicles in distress) and wrecks, we've had to stop traffic just for the safety of first responders."

Roads in Anchorage, where less precipitation fell, were noticeably better, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Stricklin, who made the drive from Palmer to Anchorage.

Stricklin said he slid out of his driveway, covered in a layer of ice, but encountered mostly wet road conditions by the time he got to the Glenn Highway.

The worst roads in the Valley seemed to be Palmer- and Wasilla-Fishhook roads, as well as the Schrock Road and Fairview Loop Road areas, school district transportation officials said.

Three school buses got stuck Thursday morning, according to Chris Remick, supervisor of the Mat-Su Borough School District pupil transportation department.

Remick and other transportation staff checked borough roads at 1 a.m., 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. before making a final decision to run buses at 4:30 a.m.

"We put it in go mode. And then it rained," he said Thursday morning. "Everything seemed to be in good shape, then about 5:30 it all started to fall apart."

Bus dispatchers told drivers to chain up, Remick said, but a few ignored the instructions. Those buses, including one on Wasilla-Fishhook and two others, got stuck. Most other buses made it to borough middle and high schools within five to 10 minutes of their scheduled times, he said.

The Anchorage and Mat-Su forecasts call for the freezing rain to end Thursday morning with temperatures warming to above freezing.

Fairbanks, meanwhile, encountered power outages and dangerous driving conditions Thursday following a winter storm that started Wednesday as freezing rain and then turned to snow by mid-day. Schools closed for the second day though the University of Alaska Fairbanks stayed open.

The area got about four inches of snow Wednesday, followed by gusty winds that caused the outages, said meteorologist Joe Kryston. One gust at the airport measured close to 50 mph.

The forecast called for wind and snow showers through the afternoon.

Western Alaska remained under a coastal flooding warning Thursday. Residents in villages there are still recovering from high water and ice damage last weekend.

As of Thursday morning, reports of high surf but not flooding were coming into the Fairbanks Weather Service office, Kryston said.

Reach Zaz Hollander at or 257-4317.