Heavy snow, high winds and rain expected along the Seward Highway

Powerful wind gusts, heavy snow and rain could create difficult driving conditions Thursday and Friday along much of the Seward Highway from Portage through Turnagain Pass, meteorologists said.

The storm system is moving into the area from the Gulf of Alaska and bringing a surge of warm air and “a lot of moisture,” said said National Weather Service meteorologist Kaitlyn O’Brien.

Up to 18 inches of snow is expected to fall in Turnagain Pass, according to a winter storm warning that is in place until 2 a.m. Friday. The heaviest snow is expected to fall Thursday afternoon and evening, O’Brien said.

Seward saw snow early Thursday, but O’Brien said it is expected to changeover to rain by late morning as the temperature rises. Lower elevations and areas near the coast will likely see rain Thursday, but snow will fall at elevations above 1,000 feet, she said.

There is a low chance for precipitation in Anchorage, O’Brien said, but if it does fall, it will be a wet snow before switching to rain overnight.

“We’re not expecting much in the way of accumulation for the Bowl,” she said.

Rain on top of snow could create slick roadways and complicate the Friday morning commute, O’Brien said.

Strong winds are also expected Thursday, with gusts up to 80 mph forecast to hit the Portage Valley, the weather service said. A 61 mph gust was recorded early Thursday in the area.

Gusts up to 50 mph are expected on the Anchorage Hillside, O’Brien said.

Winds are expected to pick up early Friday in the Matanuska and Knik River valleys, where O’Brien said sustained winds around 20 mph with gusts up to 35 mph were likely.