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Fog and cold have created perfect conditions for a frosty Anchorage

After years of low snow and higher winter temperatures, Anchorage once again looks like a real northern city thanks to a heavy layer of frost.

A thick, freezing fog that moved into the city in recent days has created a layer of rime and hoarfrost settling onto surfaces from trees and light poles to bikes and parked cars.

"It gives everything a 'pipe cleaner on steroids' look," said Michael Kutz, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Anchorage.

The impressive frost is created by a mix of weather conditions. Much of its base is rime, a type of frost formed when water droplets in the air freeze on surfaces. Rime has a smooth, rounded look and can accumulate quickly in freezing fog conditions.

On top of the rime is hoarfrost. The hoarfrost is caused when water vapor in the air freezes directly onto surfaces. Hoarfrost builds into the delicate tendrils of ice.

The frost has become so thick in some areas of Anchorage that a slight breeze can knock it off the trees and create a snow-like effect.

And it just so happens that snow is in the forecast. A storm system is expected to descend on Southcentral Alaska in the coming days. Kutz said Anchorage is expected to get 2 to 4 inches of snow Friday, with areas north of the city likely to see more.

With below-freezing temperatures in the forecast for the next week, it's likely Anchorage will continue looking like a winter wonderland.

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