With major roadways plowed, Anchorage street maintenance crews on Friday turned to clearing residential streets after a series of significant storms hammered the city with snow, creating continually challenging conditions for drivers, pedestrians and plow crews.
In total, the National Weather Service measured 41 inches of snow near Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport during the 11-day storm period, although totals varied widely throughout town. The repeated storms made it difficult for snowplows to clear roads before the next system hit. Poor road conditions prompted the Anchorage School District to close schools again Friday.
The snow ended Thursday and cold, clear days are forecast into next week, giving crews time to clear roads without further interruptions.
After six days of school closures over the past two weeks, the Anchorage School District was planning on having students back in class Monday, according to spokesman MJ Thim.
By Friday, roads that had been cleared appeared to be in good condition, although there were high berms stacked alongside streets. Many residential streets were still awaiting plows, and deep snow ruts had formed where vehicles had driven on unplowed roads. Several sidewalks remained untouched, leaving pedestrians to choose between trudging through deep snow or walking on the roads.
All major state-maintained roads had been cleared by Friday, but some remained in rough condition. Alaska Department of Transportation crews on Friday were focusing on clearing lower priority roads and expected to finish by the end of the weekend, said Justin Shelby, the central region’s administrative operations manager. They will begin hauling snow after that, he said.
Crews were clearing sidewalks with snow blowers near Dimond Boulevard and Boniface Parkway on Friday, Shelby said. He said one of the department’s three snow blowers was undergoing repairs, but an additional rented machine allowed sidewalk-clearing crews to operate at full capacity.
Municipal crews cleared main roads on Thursday and began plowing some residential streets, according to an update from the mayor’s office. They hauled snow from downtown Anchorage overnight, with help from 30 contractor trucks, the update said.
Crews will haul snow and widen arterial streets, like Lake Otis Parkway, after hauling efforts are completed downtown, according to the mayor’s office. Collector streets will be the next priority.
During the day on Friday, crews were using single graders to plow residential streets. Using one machine, instead of two, allows the department to clear more areas but makes the job messier — sometimes leaving large berms of snow that can block driveways. The Parks and Recreation Department provided five pickup trucks equipped with plows to help clear berms in driveways, the mayor’s office said. At least five additional contract graders were helping with the plowing.
At least six residential sectors had been completed out of 61 by Thursday afternoon, according to the city’s online plow map. Work was ongoing in 23 sectors.
The city had said early in the week it was working on a memorandum of understanding with the school district so the district could lend its plow fleet to help clear snow. Thim said Friday the school district was still waiting to hear back from the city about that proposal.
“We stand at the ready, we’ve got personnel, we’ve got equipment that we are ready to offer up in support, if they need that,” he said. “But we’re not going to offer it up unless we know that our campuses are clean themselves.”
Thim said the district is still weighing how to make up the instructional days lost, which could mean tacking additional minutes on to school days or adding days to the end of the school year, among other options.
“People want to know if we are going to be making any changes to spring break,” he said. “Spring break is not part of the conversation at this time.”
Thim said the district also is working to make remote learning an option for potential future closures.
The recent snow, following a rainy summer, provided enough precipitation to break Anchorage’s old annual precipitation record, which was set in 1989.
The only other 11-day period with higher amounts of snow came in 1996, when 44.6 inches of snow was reported, according to the National Weather Service. Anchorage needs to receive less than an inch of snow for this month to become the snowiest December on record, beating out a record set in 1955.
-- Morgan Krakow contributed reporting.