Crews worked to clear snow off roads across Anchorage on Saturday as drivers navigated rough, icy streets in some parts of town in the wake of this week’s major winter storm — and more snow is on the way.
A winter storm warning is in effect for Anchorage from late Sunday night to noon Monday, with 6 to 9 inches of heavy snow expected and up to 12 inches on the Hillside, according to the National Weather Service.
City road maintenance crews were digging out residential roads Saturday after the storm dumped more than 2 1/2 feet of snow on some parts of Anchorage. Major arterial roads maintained by the city had been cleared by Friday afternoon, and crews were focused on the still-buried neighborhoods, according to the city’s Office of Emergency Management.
The municipality also shifted its efforts to work on some state-maintained roads that the Alaska Department of Transportation was struggling to clear, in an attempt to get ahead of the coming storm, city and state officials said.
The heavy moisture content in the snow this week caused it to compact quickly and act like concrete, forming deep ruts in the road as cars drove over it and temperatures dropped, DOT spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy said.
“It takes a much longer time to cut through this hard snowpack, so we can’t use our high-speed plows; we have to use graders,” she said. “The municipality actually has a ton of graders. So this was a really good partnership for us.”
“We had capacity to assist them with some of their main roads that we were getting complaints about,” said Veronica Hoxie, a spokeswoman for Mayor Dave Bronson.
According to the mayor’s office, state roads that city crews have already started working on include several main thoroughfares on the Hillside, such as O’Malley Road, Huffman Road, DeArmoun Road, and Hillside Drive between DeArmoun and O’Malley, all expected to be plowed by late Saturday night.
The municipality received the most complaints about the Old Seward Highway, Dimond Boulevard and C Street over the last several days, Hoxie said.
McCarthy said the state prioritized the Glenn and Seward highways and Minnesota Drive when the storm first hit, which caused some of these other major roads to develop ruts before road crews could reach them.
“It really in some areas were like little wagon trails, because it had dropped below freezing, and that had really set,” she said. “And the further south you got, the worse it got, because of volume of snow.”
Other state roads set to be cleared by city crews include part of Dimond, from Arctic Boulevard to the Seward Highway, plus much of Raspberry Road and Jewel Lake Road, the mayor’s office said.
Meanwhile, another storm was headed for Southcentral Alaska, bringing with it the likelihood of another 6 to 12 inches of snow falling on Anchorage and Mat-Su starting Sunday night into Monday, according to the National Weather Service.
While state and municipal crews worked to clear roads, many drivers continued to report challenging road conditions across Anchorage, including narrow lanes, slick streets and bumpy, uneven surfaces in some areas.
“We’re really hitting it hard today,” McCarthy said Saturday. “And I think we’ll be in pretty darn good shape by tomorrow night.”
As part of the “snow emergency” Bronson declared Thursday, the city directed Anchorage residents to keep unattended vehicles off roadways as public snow removal crews and private contractors worked to clear snow.
Parts of Anchorage received up to 30 inches of unusually wet, dense snow during the brunt of the storm, and parts of Southcentral reported snowfall totals up to 3 feet.
Several more inches of snow fell across Anchorage on Friday, making this the city’s fifth-snowiest November on record already — with even more snow in the forecast.
Snow will likely begin falling across the Anchorage Bowl and Eagle River beginning late Sunday night, National Weather Service meteorologist Carson Jones said Saturday.
Between 6 and 9 inches of snow was likely to fall through Monday evening, with higher accumulation totals expected on the Anchorage Hillside, the weather service said.
“And just given the amount of snow that’s currently on the trees right now, plus the introduction of more snow, that could lead to potentially more widespread power outages,” he said.
Hoxie said Saturday that the city wasn’t concerned about its ability to keep up with the coming storm, given adequate staffing and additional resources it had been able to procure as part of the snow emergency.
“We’re prepared, and we’re hoping that things won’t get too terrible out there,” she said.
Jones said the weather service was more confident about this storm’s modeling than with the previous storm, which proved especially difficult to pin down. He said this snowfall was expected to be lighter and fluffier than the recent flakes, which were particularly wet and heavy.
Sunday night though Monday morning, much of the Mat-Su was expected to get anywhere between 4 and 10 inches of snow, with up to 12 inches likely through Hatcher Pass, Jones said.
Even more precipitation was possible across Southcentral Alaska later on from Wednesday night into Thursday, with a chance of rain and snow possible, Jones said, adding that predicted amounts for that storm were still uncertain.
The heavy snowfall this week prompted the city to cancel service for Anchorage’s People Mover buses on Thursday and Friday, leaving riders without service for three days in a row: Operations remained closed Saturday in observance of Veterans Day.
By Saturday evening, just a few hundred homes and businesses in Anchorage, Mat-Su and on the Kenai Peninsula were still without power. All told, more than 12,000 across the region had lost power at some point due to the storm as heavy snow knocked down trees into power lines.
Chugach Electric Association reported at about 5 p.m. Saturday that they had over 200 customers still without power, mostly in Hope. Fewer than 50 members in Mat-Su were without power Saturday evening, according to Matanuska Electric Association. And fewer than 100 customers remained without power on the Kenai Peninsula, according to an update from Homer Electric Association.