Anchorage is digging out Wednesday from more than a foot of heavy and wet snow.
“This is the heaviest snowfall the Anchorage area has seen in over 20 years,” said state Department of Transportation spokesman Justin Shelby. “Our crews are keeping up as best they can.”
The snow started Tuesday afternoon, increased overnight and continued into Wednesday, piling onto city streets.
Anchorage police dispatchers had reports of 143 vehicles that had slid or gotten stuck on snowy roads between midnight and 1 p.m. Wednesday. Just four accidents were reported. None of them involved injuries.
Shelby said state road crews were scrambling to clear major roads in the area — including the Glenn and New Seward highways, as well as Minnesota Drive — before the evening commute.
The Anchorage and Mat-Su Borough school districts decided early Wednesday to close schools for the day. After-school activities were also canceled. The University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University closed Wednesday, too.
The National Weather Service reported that the storm had dumped almost a foot of snow at its West Anchorage office by late Wednesday morning. The overall snow depth measured 17 inches. Meteorologist Michael Kutz said even higher totals were reported on the east side of town.
“Over on the east side, we’ve been getting reports as high as 18 inches out of the snow,” Kutz said. “And that’s over on the Hillside,” he said.
Snow should taper off Wednesday afternoon, giving crews a chance to clear area roads, Kutz said. Temperatures will begin a fall to lows in the mid-teens Wednesday evening, with single digits expected by Thursday.
“Friday night will be cold, the coldest of the bunch,” Kutz said. “And that’s looking at basically about right near 0 on the west side, maybe a little bit below in some locations, and probably like 10 degrees below zero for the east side.”
The falling mercury will be accompanied by generally northerly winds, according to Kutz, with expected gusts of 15 to 25 mph.
“We may see some local areas of reduced visibility due to blowing snow, and also some light problems with drifting snow,” Kutz said.
Wind gusts may be higher in “channeled locations” like mountain passes, according to Kutz.