Saturday's major Southcentral Alaska snow dump, which brought the Seward Highway to a halt in South Anchorage after pileups involving dozens of vehicles just one day before the spring equinox, broke a daily record -- but it wasn't the deepest snow recorded in the region.
National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Wegman said Sunday that Anchorage' official snow tally for Saturday, from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, was 6.4 inches -- enough to topple the previous record for March 19, 5.2 inches set in 1979. The Muldoon area saw about 9.5 inches of snow for the day, with both Eagle River and Palmer seeing 10 inches.
University of Alaska Fairbanks climatologist Brian Brettschneider said on Twitter Sunday that the snowfall also moved Anchorage's seasonal snowfall total ahead of that in two major East Coast cities.
On the Kenai Peninsula, Seward came in at 4 inches of snow, with Kenai seeing 5. But snowfall totals elsewhere in Southcentral dwarfed those measurements.
"Paxson, in Mentasta Pass, got 32 inches," Wegman said. "Valdez was 24 to 36 (inches) -- Glennallen got at least a foot."
The sudden blanket of snow covering formerly dry roads turned much of Anchorage into a bumper-car nightmare for drivers, with Anchorage police reporting more than 50 collisions for the day. At least 30 vehicles were involved in multiple pileups on the Seward Highway between Dimond Boulevard and Dowling Road, which caused police to temporarily close the highway in both directions as vehicles were cleared from the scene.
Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Renee Oistad said that dispatchers had received markedly fewer reports of crashes Sunday, with four vehicles in distress, six non-injury accidents and one injury accident called in as of 11 a.m.
"There's not much going on," Oistad said."
Alaska State Troopers also said in Sunday dispatches that separate collisions had caused roughly two-hour northbound closures and traffic diversions on the Glenn and Parks highways, with the Mile 34 Glenn crash taking place at roughly 10:45 a.m. and the Parks crash near the Hyer Road bridge occurring at about 2 p.m. No major injuries were reported in either crash, troopers said, with "weather conditions" listed as at least a partial cause in each; no citations were issued.
Wegman said Anchorage temperatures were set to climb throughout the day Sunday, headed for a high of 40 degrees, which will keep the snow on local roads from sticking as scattered morning snowfall gave way to afternoon rain showers.
"Any chances of precipitation will have some rain mixed in," Wegman said. "We're not looking at any chances of accumulating precipitation."
While he stopped short of calling Saturday's snowfall the last of the season, Wegman said it might be the last of the month.
"It's certainly very possible it could cool down again and we could get another dump of snow," Wegman said. "At least right now, at least for the next week, it seems like we're going to stay on the warm side."
Alaska Dispatch Publishing