School bus drivers struggle with snow as Anchorage schools reopen

Update 5:40 a.m. Friday

Though road conditions remain “poor,” all schools and school bus routes will be operational Friday, the Anchorage School District said in an early morning social media post. But some neighborhoods will have new bus stop locations:

  • Range View Trailer Court -- Bus Stop: Valley Street and East 6th Avenue
  • Dimond Estates -- Bus Stop: The main office building
  • Rivera Terrace -- Bus Stop: Lee Street and East 34th Avenue
  • Areas of Moorland Street, Sara Lynn Place, Lakeridge Court, Crannog Street, Beachwood Drive -- Bus Stop: West 84th Avenue and Jewel Lake Road

“Bus drivers will be taking extra precautions and, more than likely, we will see delays on difficult routes due to ongoing road conditions,” the district said. “Students should dress appropriately for the potential of longer-than-usual waits at their bus stops.”

Original Thursday story:

Nearly all Anchorage schools reopened Thursday as plow crews made headway after several winter storms in less than a week buried the city in feet of snow.

But higher temperatures and rain on packed snow created treacherous, icy road conditions in various locations, prompting the Anchorage School District to cancel about 50 bus routes early Thursday.

Numerous buses got stuck in the morning — seven seriously enough they needed a tow truck to get out, according to district officials. None got stuck in the afternoon, they said, but one school bus was involved in “a minor accident,” with no injuries, district spokesman Corey Allen Young said in a text. A bus and car were traveling around a curve in Northeast Anchorage when “contact was made,” Young wrote, causing a scrape to the side of the bus. The bus was carrying 29 Bartlett High School students.


Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt said district leadership expected city roads to be in better shape for reopening schools Thursday morning than they actually were. Days after major active snowfall ended, the city had not yet finished plowing residential routes, Bryantt said.

“On Thursday, seven buses needed to be towed. Every single bus was delayed,” he said. “One school was not open. So — I’m disappointed.”

Most school buses experienced delays Thursday morning, “either stuck, taking it slow or otherwise,” district spokesman Young said. Frustrated parents posted photos online of stuck buses or students forced by uncleared sidewalks to walk next to traffic on slick roads.

No students were injured, and all eventually arrived safely to school, Young said.

The district will be checking road conditions starting at 3 a.m. Friday morning before making decisions about bus routes, Bryantt said.

“I’m hoping that we can put some routes back online,” he said. “Our kids really depend on in-person learning and it has been a long time.”

O’Malley Elementary School on the Anchorage Hillside remained in remote learning because the only road to access it had not been plowed, Bryantt said.

The district said overall student attendance on Thursday was at about 80%-90% and staff attendance was typical for this time of year.

The district based its route cancellations on neighborhood streets that were still obstructed as of Thursday morning, either because of unplowed snow or obstacles like stranded cars blocking access, district officials said Thursday afternoon.

“Our buses are 40 feet long and can’t navigate in those conditions safely,” Young said in an email.

District officials instructed families who didn’t feel comfortable getting students to school to notify administrators for excused absences. After-school activities and community rentals were canceled except for the All State Music Festival at West and Bartlett high schools.

[What do you want to know about Anchorage schools and snow?]

Downed power lines caused power outages in the region, a daily occurrence since last week. By Friday morning, Chugach Electric Association was reporting nearly 215 customers out, mostly in Tyonek. Power was restored to all but a handful of Matanuska Electric Association members.

The National Weather Service measured a trace of rain Thursday morning at the agency’s Sand Lake offices in West Anchorage. That was enough to create slick conditions on many roads, though others were just wet. Rain was reported on and off through the day.

Ice and snow falling off the Muldoon Road overpass struck a vehicle on the Glenn Highway on Thursday afternoon, injuring the driver, according to the Anchorage Police Department, which said it was notified just after 1:30 p.m. after the driver asked for medical assistance.

The vehicle was southbound when it was hit by material falling off the bridge, which penetrated the windshield, police spokeswoman Renee Oistad said. She described the injuries as not life-threatening.

State transportation officials were asked “to evaluate the snow/ice pack on the bridge,” Oistad said in an email. The southbound highway was briefly closed.


Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities administrative operations manager Justin Shelby said in a text message that crews were called to clean up the area beneath the bridge but “no one could discern where ice had come from.”

A night foreman was investigating as of late Thursday, Shelby said.

Through the day, police received reports of 17 vehicles in distress and four collisions, none of them involving injuries, Oistad said.

A municipal update showed half of the city’s roughly 60 snow removal sectors had been cleared by just before noon Thursday, with another 15 listed as “in progress.” While drivers described at least some of the city’s main roads as mostly clear, multiple neighborhoods were still unplowed with soft snow mounds hardened into moguls.

Mayor Dave Bronson on Wednesday said he entered an informal agreement to send municipal plows to help clear state-owned roadways at the cost of clearing residential neighborhoods more quickly.

Thursday’s warmer, breezy conditions aren’t expected to last long.

The weather service logged “a few sporadic bursts” of rain Wednesday night into Thursday as temperatures climbed into the high 30s and even low 40s, according to meteorologist Kristine Chen. A cooler air mass, however, is expected to trigger lower temperatures by afternoon or evening and set up potentially difficult road conditions by Friday morning, Chen said.

By the weekend, Anchorage could see single-digit lows, with temperatures far below zero in the Susitna Valley and Copper River basin, she said.

Forecasters say they are keeping an eye on a new low-pressure system that’s developing in the North Pacific Ocean that could bring higher temperatures early next week, but also the potential for more snow.

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Zaz Hollander

Zaz Hollander is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su and is currently an ADN local news editor and reporter. She covers breaking news, the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at

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.

Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She focuses on in-depth stories about the intersection of public policy and Alaskans' lives. Before joining the ADN in 2012, she worked at daily newspapers up and down the West Coast and earned a master's degree from the University of Oregon.

Annie Berman

Annie Berman is a reporter covering health care, education and general assignments for the Anchorage Daily News. She previously reported for Mission Local and KQED in San Francisco before joining ADN in 2020. Contact her at