Alaska News

Anchorage schools closed as Southcentral Alaska snowfall again makes roads slick

Another winter storm had dumped on Anchorage and the Mat-Su by Monday morning, and once again it disrupted the routines of area residents and students. After a reprieve from the snow in the afternoon, isolated snow showers had returned by evening and were forecast through the rest of the week.

Snow is expected to continue in Anchorage and the Mat-Su through Wednesday night, the National Weather Service wrote in a public forecast. Unlike Sunday's snowstorm, which the NWS had issued a weather advisory for because of its expected heavy dumping and low visibility, Monday evening's was a little bit harder to predict, according to meteorologist Rebecca Duell.

"(Monday) was a tricky day," Duell said. "Everything is so isolated now. Anything we get isn't going to last. Last night (Sunday night) we had a really long feature. There's no feature today."

According to Duell, the only area forecast to see any significant amount of accumulation by Tuesday morning is in the Mat-Su.

A snowstorm hit the Anchorage and Mat-Su areas Sunday around 6 p.m.

As of 10 a.m. Monday, the Anchorage NWS office listed snowfall totals from the storm ranging from 1.5 inches at Dimond Boulevard's intersection with Minnesota Drive to 3.6 inches on the upper Anchorage Hillside. In the Mat-Su region, Palmer received just 2.2 inches of snow, but Willow and Chulitna both received roughly 9 inches of snow. South of Anchorage, Girdwood and Soldotna each received 2 inches of snow, while Valdez and the Thompson Pass area saw 6 to 7 inches of snowfall.

The winter storm closed schools in Anchorage and caused early school dismissal for middle and high school students in the Mat-Su Borough School District, as well as the cancellation of after-school activities. Some schools in the northern areas of the Mat-Su were closed last Friday because of bad weather and snow conditions.

Anchorage School District spokesperson Heidi Embley said the decision to cancel classes for the day was made due to "icy road conditions that are getting worse (as) the commute continues." The district had previously announced a two-hour delay for the start of classes.

"Even when we make the decision at 5 a.m., we continued to drive roadways and get input from our drivers and staff," Embley said. "We got information that the roads were getting worse and worse, and in the interest of safety we decided to close."

Embley declined to compare Monday's closure decision to the one officials made a week ago to remain open amid icy conditions that saw nearly 100 non-injury accidents and vehicles in distress. The district subsequently issued an apology for that decision after some morning buses were delayed by more than an hour.

"Making a closure decision is never easy and it's never a win-win situation -- there will always be people upset with your decision," Embley said. "We made that decision based solely on conditions today."

Monday's closure uses up one of the district's two budgeted snow days for the school year. Embley said that after a second snow day, any more would have to be made up by holding school during an in-service day or shortening one of the district's vacation periods such as spring break.

The Anchorage Police Department temporarily closed several roads in their jurisdiction Monday morning as well, including C Street at its intersection with 19th Avenue and Eagle River Road between the firehouse and Laoana Drive. Agency spokesperson Anita Shell said all closed local roads had been reopened as of 10:45 a.m

From 12 a.m. to 4 p.m. officers had responded to 44 vehicle collisions, four with injuries and 53 vehicles in distress, according to Shell.

"Of the vehicles in distress, almost all of those are on the Glenn Highway," Shell said Monday morning. "People are slipping, sliding and crashing into each other."

Chris Klint

Chris Klint is a former ADN reporter who covered breaking news.

Megan Edge

Megan Edge is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch and Alaska Dispatch News.