Another winter storm could dump up to two more feet of snow on Southeast Alaska this weekend. Then, the snowpack could get dangerously rain-soaked if the weather abruptly shifts as forecast next week.
Grant Smith is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Juneau. He said there are two weather systems converging in Southeast. Near the surface, we’ve been experiencing a cold and dry system. In the upper part of the atmosphere, a system from the south will bring warmer, wetter weather.
“So we’re going to have this fight between the warmer air trying to move in and move out, you know, the cold air that’s so settled in,” Smith said.
Winter Storm Watches have been issued for ALL of SE Alaska. Expect snow starting Saturday afternoon/evening – followed by a warm-up and transition to rain from south to north Sunday into Monday. Please see our website https://t.co/i2y4s0iaMj for the latest forecast. #akwx pic.twitter.com/lg3m6zdRNB
— NWS Juneau (@NWSJuneau) January 7, 2022
Forecasting how the two systems will interact comes with a lot of uncertainty. Ten to 24 inches of snow is expected to fall Saturday and Sunday. For the Juneau area, the transition to rain is predicted late Sunday or early Monday.
“And that’s gonna cause a lot of the snow in the area just to soak up all that moisture, and all that rain and water. And it’s going to add to structural integrity problems and potential flooding,” Smith said.
Flooding because drains all over are plugged up with older snow and ice. Juneau Emergency Programs Manager Tom Mattice said the city’s asking residents to help clear them out.
“Kind of like adopt a fire hydrant, you know?” Mattice said. “You know where there’s a drain in your neighborhood and you can get to it, make sure it’s free to process water, that’d be a good thing over the next few days.”
Juneau Streets Superintendent Greg Smith said it’s a time-consuming, labor-intensive process. He recommended using hand bars, shovels and chisels.
He said his office may also be able to help, though his crews already have their hands full.
The storm could also be a major problem for boat owners. Jeremy Norbryhn is the deputy harbormaster for Juneau Docks and Harbors. He said that snow this winter has already claimed at least one boat.
“So the one boat just got a bunch of snow on it. And uh, the owner was informed, and before he could get here, it sunk,” Norbryhn said. “It started to lean to the side, take on water, and it sunk in about 90 to 120 feet of water.”
He said harbor employees walk the docks periodically and will flag potential problems for owners, but owners should check and maintain their vessels themselves.
Meanwhile, hardware store employees in Juneau reported a run on snow removal gear, especially for snow rakes used to pull snow off of roofs.
“I’m sold out right now,” said John Joeright, an assistant manager at Ace Hardware in Juneau, as another phone ringing interrupted. “We’ve just had numerous calls all day long today.”
Weather-related shipping issues in the Seattle area have delayed restocking.
The city published some advice about assessing rooftop snow loads earlier this week. City officials maintain that it’s up to individuals to weigh the risk of shoveling their roofs against potential structural damage.
Nate Abbott is a building maintenance supervisor with the city. He said going into the weekend, his bigger concern is about water intrusion, rather than the sheer weight of snow on roofs. He said ice dams can form around roof drains and gutters, leading rain and snowmelt to reveal unexpected leaks.