A layer of ice coating Anchorage streets caused dozens of car crashes Friday and Saturday and prompted some residents to pull out their ice skates and turn the streets into rinks.
On New Year's Day alone, police received 34 crash reports, in addition to eight injury crashes, said Anchorage police spokeswoman Renee Oistad. An additional 36 stranded or disabled vehicles were reported.
The vast majority of the crashes were reported around 4 p.m., as a light rain began falling, Oistad said.
The problems continued into Saturday. As of early Saturday evening, Oistad said, there had been 20 reports of crashes without injuries, two with injuries, and 30 vehicles in distress.
Oistad said many of the problems seem to be concentrated at icy, wet intersections.
As for city side streets, Oistad said: "Just get out your skates."
Brian Brettschneider, a climate researcher at the University of Alaska Anchorage, did exactly that -- he woke up Saturday morning and could barely walk down his driveway.
So he strapped on his skates and glided down the streets of his Midtown neighborhood to check out the roads.
"It was pretty much awful," Brettschneider said of the conditions.
The skating, though, "was actually really good," Brettschneider added. He later posted a video of his skate to Twitter.
Meanwhile, skaters were advised to steer clear of lakes and ice rinks in the city. A Dec. 30 city status report on ice skating conditions said popular lakes and rinks like Westchester Lagoon and Cuddy Park all had standing water on top of the ice, and urged caution.
Andy Dixon, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Anchorage, said a light rain falling on frozen ground Friday evening contributed to the slick conditions. Even if the air temperature is in the high 30s or low 40s, Dixon said the cold ground can help freeze some rain into ice.
With southeasterly winds continuing Saturday night, Dixon said, forecasters don't see significant improvement on the horizon.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing