Arctic front brings extreme cold, high winds to Juneau this week

The sun appears as temperatures drop to potential record breaking lows, Dec. 16, 2022 near the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau. (Photo by Paige Sparks/KTOO)

A cold snap is settling over Southeast Alaska starting this weekend into early next week, with high winds and cold temperatures with record-breaking potential. 

As the Arctic front arrived in Juneau Friday morning, National Weather Service Meteorologist Nicole Ferrin outlined the coming days on Facebook live. Temperatures will get progressively colder each day through the start of next week, with prolonged sub-zero temperatures anticipated. Monday’s high is predicted to be just 4 degrees Fahrenheit. 

“Make those kids put on a coat when they’re going to the bus stop,” she said in the livestream. “You know, for your teenager, a hoodie is not going to cut it on Monday.” 

A high pressure system in the Yukon will continue to drive cold air and strong wind across the panhandle, with the potential for Taku wind activity in Skagway and downtown Juneau. A high wind watch is effective Friday evening through Saturday, with wind speeds of 30 to 40 mph, and gusts reaching 60 mph. 

“And we’re going to be keeping a very close eye on that over the weekend to see if we need to upgrade those to warnings,” Ferrin said.

Winds could damage trees and powerlines, and they will increase risk for drivers, especially on the Klondike Highway. 

Jack the dog runs through icy snow as temperatures drop to potential record lows in Juneau. Dec. 16, 2022. (Photo by Paige Sparks/KTOO)

Highs in the single digits with negative temperatures throughout the day are expected. With windchill, it will feel closer to twenty below zero in downtown Juneau. 

“These are some of the coldest temperatures I’ve seen working here for 10 years, so if your pipes haven’t frozen before, this might be the first time, ” Ferrin said. 

Residents should take precautions to protect their pipes, especially those living in mobile homes. 

Joel Mitchell, a plumber and owner of American Home Service in Juneau, says the best thing homeowners can do to prevent freezing pipes is keep the water flowing. He recommends running a cold water tap in both the front and the back of the home for the duration of the cold snap.

“Just trickle it right? So it doesn’t, it doesn’t stop flowing. Once the water stops flowing is when it has a problem with freezing,” Mitchell said. 

Mitchell says insulating your pipes with foam is a good preventative measure too. He also recommends opening the cabinets under kitchen and bathroom sinks to allow warm airflow. 

If your pipes do freeze and split, Mitchell says it’s important to shut off your water right away to prevent further flooding.

“A lot of people don’t know where their main shutoff valve into their home is. So if something does freeze and split, and it’s spraying water, knowing where that valve is to turn the water off, is really, really important,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell explained that shut off valves are typically attached to the main water pipe, which comes out of the ground towards the entrance of your home. Often it’s found in the garage or crawlspace.

Boat owners should also check their vessels before the start of the weekend, with heavy freezing sprays expected in the harbor.

The city’s cold weather emergency shelter at Resurrection Lutheran Church will be operating all weekend with cots and blankets for anyone who needs a warm place to sleep. 

The shelter typically opens at 10:30 p.m., but with temperatures below twenty degrees it will operate from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily for the next several days. It’s located at the corner of Glacier Avenue and 10th Street. 

“Anyone can come in,” said shelter manager Brad Perkins. “We serve them, you know, a simple dinner and breakfast, and then they are out by 7 o’clock.” 

Even after the cold snap lifts, the shelter will be open every night through the Christmas holiday. Perkins says shelter staff are prepared to welcome dozens of patrons in the coming days.

“I expect it will be pretty full this next week. When it gets really cold, people need a place to stay,” he said.

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