The sun is shining, the snowpack is melting, and it's time to change out studded tires or risk a fine.
Studded tires are banned starting Thursday in all communities north of Ninilchik, including Anchorage and Mat-Su. The ban lasts until Sept. 15.
Drivers south of Ninilchik should have already changed out studded tires, with the deadline falling on April 15 this year.
Alaska State Troopers and local police departments can start writing tickets on Thursday. Under state law, the fine from troopers amounts to $50 per vehicle, but it's essentially a fix-it ticket that can be forgiven if the tires are shown to have been removed by a certain date, said Megan Peters, troopers spokeswoman.
Peters stressed that the policies are supposed to help reduce wear and tear on the roadways and lower maintenance costs.
"Studs are very hard on the pavement, and it tears up our roads," she said.
In Anchorage, police can fine drivers $30 per studded tire starting Thursday, said Jennifer Castro, Anchorage police spokeswoman. That city fine, which can add up to $120 per vehicle, does not give drivers the opportunity to avoid payment after removing the tires.
The looming deadline means a flurry of activity for tire businesses around Alaska the next two days. Dan Williams, the assistant manager at American Tire's South Anchorage location, opened the store's door at 8 a.m. Tuesday to find about 25 people waiting in line.
He cut the line off about three and a half hours later. He said the store expects to change the tires on about 70 vehicles per day, in addition to filling some 100 work-order invoices.
"This is the season," Williams said.
Reach Devin Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4314.
By DEVIN KELLY