Sliding drivers and power outages as snow season arrives in Southcentral Alaska

Snowfall eased off in Anchorage and Mat-Su early Friday after a storm system cruised through Southcentral Alaska overnight, leaving slick roads and power outages in its wake.

Anchorage police spokeswoman Renee Oistad said that by 8 p.m. Friday, police had received reports of 91 vehicles in distress as well as 59 accidents since midnight, seven of which included non-life-threatening injuries. The crashes were not concentrated along any particular roads or areas, she added.

"It's everywhere — it's all parts of town," Oistad said.

The Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for "near-whiteout conditions" in Thompson Pass from Mile 23 to Mile 33 of the Richardson Highway, in effect from 4 p.m. Friday through 1 a.m. Sunday. The warning calls for 1 to 3 inches of snow, with winds up to 50 mph and gusts up to 65 mph by Saturday morning.

"Strongest winds and worst visibility will likely occur near Saturday morning, improving through late Saturday afternoon," meteorologists wrote.

[Photo gallery: First real snow of the season in Southcentral Alaska]

Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said Palmer-based troopers received reports of 20 vehicles in distress (one of which turned out to be a DUI) and 15 crashes as of 4:20 p.m. Friday. Knik-Goose Bay Road was one of the worst areas, she said.

Southcentral electric utilities' social-media accounts were reporting outages, including a series of what the Matanuska Electric Association's Facebook page called "weather-related" outages spanning from Wasilla to Eagle River. About 2,400 people were affected. MEA crews restored power to most customers by Friday evening, but the company said it anticipated more outages overnight as wet snow froze up.

MEA spokeswoman Julie Estey said that most of the outages were caused by snow weighing down trees onto power lines.

"The good news is that the damage isn't significant," Estey said. "It's just more trees resting on lines, and so the outages have been pretty easy to repair."

Municipal Light & Power spokeswoman Julie Harris said about 50 downtown Anchorage customers lost power early Friday, including the federal courthouse, but all of them were back online by 9:15 a.m. The outage was traced to a fault in an underground power line, Harris said, which meant "it's not snow-related."

[Yeah, it snowed, but it's still too early to put up bird feeders in Southcentral Alaska]

My world is white and I am so happy! Hello, snow! #snow #winter #alaska #anchorage

A photo posted by Ashley W (@ashleynalaska) on


The Anchorage forecast calls for a clear and cold weekend with temperatures in the teens before another storm arrives in the area Tuesday.

Fairbanks meteorologist Lindsay Tardif-Huber said that city received its first snowfall Thursday afternoon from the same storm system, well after the average Fairbanks first-snow date of Oct. 1. Locations were reporting under an inch of snow after about four hours of precipitation.

Alaska Dispatch News reporter Jerzy Shedlock contributed to this report. 

Chris Klint

Chris Klint is a former ADN reporter who covered breaking news.