Anchorage hits 100-inch winter snow total at earliest date on record

Jan. 30—Over 104 inches of snow has fallen so far this winter in Anchorage as of Monday, marking this season as the earliest on record to surpass the 100-inch milestone.

A storm that started Sunday and largely tailed off by Monday afternoon had dropped nearly 17 inches on the city by evening to establish the new seasonal snowfall total, according to the National Weather Service. The storm closed schools in Anchorage and Mat-Su on Monday, and contributed to a fatal collision on the Parks Highway.

This is the second season in a row that Anchorage has seen more than 100 inches of snow. In the 2022-23 season, the weather service recorded nearly 108 inches. The snowiest season on record was the 2011-12 winter with 134.5 inches, according to agency data.

Storms dumped snow across a broad swath of Southcentral Alaska on Sunday and into Monday, making for challenging driving conditions on the Richardson, Parks, Glenn and Seward highways.

Heavy snow and whiteout conditions were "major contributing factors" in a fatal Parks Highway collision at Willow early Monday morning involving a semi and a Nissan Titan pickup, Alaska State Troopers said.

A 19-year-old from Talkeetna who was a passenger in the pickup died in the collision and both drivers suffered minor injuries, troopers said. Responders described a 2-foot snow berm in the middle of the highway at the time.

The Anchorage School District early Monday declared a remote learning day for all schools due to heavy snowfall and hazardous road conditions, and most schools in Mat-Su did the same.

[An 'absurd ownership mishmash': How Anchorage road jurisdiction affects snowplowing]

This latest storm added another, albeit relatively light, layer of accumulation to roofs already loaded to the point of collapse for several commercial buildings, prompting new guidelines last week for commercial and residential property owners from municipal building officials.

One resident used a leaf blower to clear snow from a roof in West Anchorage.

On Turnagain Parkway, Russ DuBrock pushed snow from his roof into his yard Monday afternoon the old-fashioned way: with a shovel.

DuBrock said it was his second effort to clear snow in recent days, totaling hours of work, and he had about two-thirds of the roof left to clear. After snow cascaded down to the yard, DuBrock remarked that it would likely be a long time before the snow melts and he sees grass this spring.

The fresh accumulation made for dicey road conditions due to slick surfaced and visibility impaired at times by blowing snow. Some drivers described relatively easy travel while others reported vehicles stuck in neighborhood roads or berms on main roads and rough driving conditions.

From Sunday until about 1:30 p.m. Monday, the Anchorage Police Department received reports of 36 collisions, including 11 with injuries, and 62 vehicles off the road or otherwise disabled, according to a spokesman.

High school student Luke Reardon took advantage of remote learning Monday in Anchorage to clear the unplowed sidewalk along Northern Lights Boulevard for his dog, Jessie, as the two broke trail Monday along the state-maintained roadway.

"She likes the snow," Reardon said. "She's getting up there in age but when it snows she acts like a puppy."

The storm was expected to bring even more snow to some areas. Forecasters said Valdez, Thompson Pass and the Copper River Basin could see up to 4 feet of snow at higher elevations over several days. The Richardson Highway closed from Mile 12 to 65 through Thompson Pass on Monday due to snow, blowing snow and limited visibility, the transportation department said.

An advisory remained in place until noon Tuesday for the western Kenai Peninsula down to Homer for snow and gusty winds.

An ongoing cold snap is expected to bring a return to subzero temperatures to Anchorage through the end of the week.

This winter season began with record snow in November, and consistent snowfall has continued. The current storm brought 16.9 inches of snow by Monday night near Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, according to meteorologist Alan Shriver. That put the seasonal snow total at 104.6 inches.

The 2023-24 season so far is already the eighth snowiest winter on record.

Photojournalists Loren Holmes and Marc Lester contributed reporting for this story.