Anchorage still shoveling out from its snowiest December day since the 1950s

A bundled-up woman using a snowblower in very deep snow.
Elaine Nigh uses her snow blower to clear out her driveway on S Street in downtown Anchorage on Thursday. (Mizelle Mayo/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage residents are still shoveling out of a massive snowstorm that hit Tuesday and continued into Wednesday, with some parts of town reporting more than 2 feet of snow.

Road crews continue to clear piles of wet, heavy snow off city streets that dozens of cars got stuck in on Wednesday. For the second day in a row, Anchorage and most Mat-Su schools closed on Thursday because of hazardous driving conditions.

The National Weather Services says the snowfall that Anchorage continues to recover from broke a record. Anchorage on Tuesday recorded its largest single-day snowfall for Dec. 6, with about 10.4 inches of new snow at the official measuring site at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

Meteorologist Michael Kutz said the snowfall began on Monday. The remnants of a low pressure system coming up from the Gulf of Alaska dropped a little under 2 inches of snow.

“But quick on the heels was a larger area being pushed by a low that was further up north,” Kutz said. “And that low was the one that brought us the record snowfall.”

However, when Kutz says record, he means a record amount of snowfall for that specific day, Dec. 6. Kutz said it wasn’t close to breaking any records for snowfall on any day during Anchorage’s lengthy winter.

“Believe it or not, it didn’t even break the top 10,” Kutz laughed, adding it wasn’t the largest single-day snowfall, “even for December.”

A pair of skiers with a neighborhood in the background.
A couple of cross country skiiers on Westchester Lagoon early afternoon on Thursday Dec. 8, 2022. (Mizelle Mayo/Alaska Public Media)

There are a lot of ways to split the data.

Kutz said Tuesday saw the 19th highest single-day snowfall amount for any day in Anchorage, on record. If you took the total amount of snowfall from Monday to Wednesday, it doesn’t even crack the top 75 for three-day snowfall totals on record, he said.

But, the storm is still notable for the month of December, said fellow National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Brettschneider. He said Tuesday saw the fifth-highest December single-day snowfall.

“The only ones that were larger were actually consecutive days in 1955, which was our biggest snowstorm on record,” Brettschneider said.

The recent snowstorm as a whole in Anchorage is the biggest in December since the late ‘90s. Brettschneider said while December tends to be the month with the highest total snowfall, the highest single-day counts tend to happen at the start or the end of the winter season.

And while the airport had more than 10 inches of snow, other parts of town got buried in more than double that, said Brettschneider.

“I had 20 inches, and I’m by the Fred Meyer on Abbott. Just up past Service High, a coworker had 25 inches,” he said. “So this is one of those cases where the airport really was the lowest snowfall around town. That doesn’t usually happen actually.”

A sedan stuck in the middle of a snow-covered road.
A car sits idle in the middle of the residential West 14th Street early afternoon on Dec. 8, 2022. (Mizelle Mayo/Alaska Public Media)

Brettschneider said the fact that the Anchorage School District closed schools two days in a row further illustrates the scale of the storm.

Department of Transportation spokesman Justin Shelby said crews worked on Wednesday to clear snow off several main roads in Anchorage, including Minnesota Drive as well as the Glenn Highway up to the Knik River and the Seward Highway down to Girdwood.

“They got those cleared overnight, and began work clearing two roads early this morning,” Shelby said. “So those are the main arterial roads — Tudor, Muldoon, Northern Lights, etc.”

Shelby said if the forecast holds, the teams should wrap up clearing those roads by the end of the day Thursday. As for the neighborhood roads, the city says it started its “plow out” at 6:30 a.m. Thursday. A map on its website details the route, which started in parts of West, South and East Anchorage.

Kutz said Anchorage should get some relief from snowfall over the next couple days. But the forecast calls for plummeting temperatures Thursday night, Friday and Saturday.

“In the interim, we’re going to be dealing with some colder temperatures,” Kutz said. “Here on the west side of town, generally zero to five above. Over on the east side, it could get as cold as 15 below, and that also extends up to the Eagle River area.”

The snow is forecast to return as early as Sunday, said Kutz.

“We’re still juggling with the numbers, because we’re getting some conflicting data coming through from the models,” he said. “Some of them could be seeing about 6 inches coming in Monday into Tuesday.”

If you’re one of the Anchorage residents who has put off shoveling your driveway, Kutz said, it’s probably best to get it taken care of by Saturday.

Alaska Public Media

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