First winter snow storm of the season hits Juneau

Juneau's first big winter storm of 2021 brought a few inches of snow on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. Forecasters say temperatures could drop into the teens going into the weekend. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)
Juneau’s first big winter storm of 2021 brought a few inches of snow on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. Forecasters say temperatures could drop into the teens going into the weekend. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

It happens every year. Fall somehow abandons us to winter. 

Juneau drivers hitting the road Thursday morning got a taste of it as the first big winter storm blew in bringing snow showers and blizzard-like conditions. 

“Everybody just needs to slow down. We got 40 miles of road, just slow down,” said Excel Towing and Recovery Corporation owner Stan Lee.

No, not that Stan Lee.

“It’s actually Stanley James Lee Jr.,” he said. “I do sign autographs, I don’t write comics anymore, but I’m not dead.”

Every year when Juneau gets its first big winter storm, Lee knows he’s going to get a lot of calls from people who weren’t quite ready to switch to winter driving and they end up sliding off the roads. He said it’s usually in the same places every year too. And he said one of the most dangerous turns in town is by the Juneau Yacht Club.

“Everybody needs to slow down between [Marie Drake High School] and the yacht club,” he said.

Aside from “slow down,” Lee has a few other tips for Juneau drivers as well. One big one is don’t drive in this type of weather if you’re not comfortable doing it. 

“My daughter for example, I don’t have her studded tires on yet and she called and was uncomfortable,” Lee said.

So, he went and picked her up.

“If you’re not confident with your driving skills then you should not be on the road,” he said.

He said if you do run off the road, call the towing company directly. If the police do it, Lee said it’s more expensive. 

Juneau Police Lt. Krag Campbell said he doesn’t have the numbers yet but he knows this type of snowy day tends to lead to more crashes and people running off the roads. 

“Even though people live here it takes a little time period for people to remember ‘OK, it’s winter, I got to do winter driving.’ Maybe people start getting their winter tires back on but there’s definitely a time period where we see a little more crashes when the snow starts coming in,” Campbell said.

He said another problem intersection is the so-called “McNugget Intersection,” that’s the intersection at Glacier Highway and Egan Drive, right next to McDonald’s. Campbell said that area gets slippery. He says the highway in front of Fred Meyer heading into downtown also sees a lot of crashes because people accelerate and lose control. 

“Slow down to safe and reasonable speeds for the road conditions,” Campbell said. “It’s not always going to be the speed limit, could be less than that.”

Both Campbell and Lee asked that drivers remember to slow down and change lanes when they see emergency vehicles. It’s the law and it can prevent another crash. 

“Yeah, we do traffic stops on the side of the road and cars are still whipping by you,” Campbell said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Grant Smith said snow showers will continue Thursday evening. Then Friday, the low-pressure center that’s causing that weather is expected to move on and Friday afternoon and into Saturday the skies may clear. But, another weather system is moving in from the south that could bring another round of winter weather over the weekend and temperatures are expected to plummet. 

“We’re looking at highs in the 20s, Friday night we could actually see lows in the teens,” Campbell said. “A little bit farther north, Haines, Skagway they could actually be seeing single-digit lows.”

When that happens, Smith said it’ll be time for Juneauites to turn on faucets to keep their pipes from freezing. 

But he said this temperature drop is “just a little blip,” and it should warm up next week.

Rashah McChesney

Daily News Editor, KTOO

I help the newsroom establish daily news priorities and do hands-on editing to ensure a steady stream of breaking and enterprise news for a local and regional audience.

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