Road conditions prompt Anchorage to declare ‘snow emergency’

The Municipality of Anchorage declared a snow emergency Thursday evening due to “hazardous road conditions and heavy snow in the Anchorage area causing a threat to public safety,” the mayor’s office said.

The news came at the end of a day when big portions of Southcentral Alaska were walloped by winter weather, with well over a foot of snow accumulating across much of the Anchorage Bowl.

The declaration by Mayor Dave Bronson means the city will call on private contractors to help public snow removal crews clear major roadways in the days ahead.

“A snow emergency just allows us to waive some aspects of Title 7 so we can get some public procurement going,” said Bronson spokesperson Veronica Hoxie.

City officials did not anticipate the volume of snow that arrived Thursday, and realized late in the day that in order to meet their goal of having every residential street partially cleared within 84 hours of the storm’s end, they would need additional resources, Hoxie said.

[Southcentral Alaska snowstorm causes school and highway closures, power outages]

There is no ban on driving in place, but the city is encouraging residents to stay off roads as much as they can, in part to help snow removal crews work on clearing streets.


The municipality’s street maintenance division had a fleet of 26 road graders working within the Anchorage Bowl on Thursday, according to Hoxie.

“They are fully staffed,” Hoxie said of the division. “They have all positions filled for truckers and drivers.”

[Winter storm brings harsh conditions for Anchorage’s unhoused population]

Heavy equipment operators focused on major roadways Thursday, and anticipated beginning to work through residential areas Friday night or Saturday morning.

Many of Anchorage’s busiest streets are maintained by the state of Alaska. Also, many far-flung residential areas scattered across Eagle River and the Hillside are privately maintained through local service area agreements, and are plowed out by contractors.

Alaska’s Department of Transportation begins clearing what it calls “priority one” roads, such as the Seward and Glenn highways and Minnesota Drive in town, then shifts its focus to secondary arterials such as Boniface Parkway, Tudor and Muldoon roads, and Benson and Dimond boulevards.

Transportation department spokesman Justin Shelby said Thursday afternoon that crews had managed to run heavy equipment over all top-priority roadways and were beginning to clear additional streets as they were able.

The city halted public transportation on Thursday, with bus rides on the People Mover system suspended and assessed hourly by managers, according to the municipality’s website on snow closures. AnchorRIDES was taking residents on essential medical trips only.

The snow that fell Thursday was unusually wet and dense, creating problems on top of the existing accumulation from last weekend’s snow.

Anchorage’s Maintenance and Operations Department crews responded to 40 downed trees in 15 hours. As of Thursday morning, tree removal work was shifted over to contractors so department capacity could be dedicated to clearing roads and sidewalks.

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Zachariah Hughes

Zachariah Hughes covers Anchorage government, the military, dog mushing, subsistence issues and general assignments for the Anchorage Daily News. He also helps produce the ADN's weekly politics podcast. Prior to joining the ADN, he worked in Alaska’s public radio network, and got his start in journalism at KNOM in Nome.