Enjoy, but don't expect it to last

Early morning snowfall transforms capital into winter wonderland
Dave Smith of the city's street department uses an all terrain vehicle to plow snow off Seward Street during Tuesday's snow fall.

Snow began falling early Tuesday morning in Juneau as temperatures hovered around or below freezing, treating residents to their first snowy commutes of the season.


The light snow did little to snarl morning traffic in Juneau, with the Juneau Police Department reporting no major incidents during the A.M. commute.

“We only had one minor motor vehicle accident,” said Lt. David Campbell late Tuesday morning. “It was a single-car accident on the retaining wall,” on Egan Drive between Bartlett Regional Hospital and downtown Juneau.

There were no reported injuries from the collision, which occurred at about 8 a.m. The car was able to drive away under its own power, Campbell added.

According to the National Weather Service forecast, the snow is not likely to stick around for too long, as temperatures are expected to trend upward over the course of the week. But all the same, the light snow is set to last at least until Wednesday morning.

Jim Truitt, meteorologist at the NWS Juneau Forecast Office, said Tuesday morning that snow accumulations of one to three inches around town are expected overnight into Wednesday, coming off the one to two inches dropped around town during the day.

Downtown will probably be on the lower end of the range, Truitt added, with snow likely mixing with rain in places as the air warms up.

“Tucked back in the Mendenhall Valley, it’d be fairly easier to get the higher end on that,” Truitt added. “It’s a cooler microclimate. It’s also a cooler microclimate tucked back in Lemon Creek, for example.”

Drivers are should “recognize that with the snow on the ground, it might be a little slippery,” said Campbell.

“They should allow for more time to get to their destinations,” Campbell added, noting that motorists often drive slower when there is snow on the road.

Up at the Eaglecrest Ski Area in North Douglas, Jeffra Clough, Eaglecrest’s director of sales and marketing, said about three inches of snow fell by Tuesday morning at the lodge and four inches of new snow were added to about three inches at the top of the mountain, where 30-knot wind gusts have been blowing snow around.

“It’s definitely snowing, and we’ve been going back and forth between just flurries and looking outside to a full-on snowstorm,” said Clough.

Eaglecrest staff are excited about the October snow, with the Dec. 1 scheduled start of the ski season just over a month away.

“The good thing is that it definitely makes everyone know that winter is on the way,” Clough remarked. “We always like to see snow this early at the day lodge and also in town, because you can’t buy advertising like that.”

While snow will continue to fall Wednesday morning, Truit said, temperatures will rise enough by the afternoon that the snow will turn to rain below 200 feet.

At Eaglecrest, Clough said she wants to see the wetter weather translate into more snow on the mountains.

“We’re hoping that we’ll get into a snow cycle, we’ll be able to keep the snow and it’ll just increase in depth,” said Clough.

The reason why snow has accumulated, Truitt said, is that the ground has been colder than is typical for this time of year due to the dry, cold spell Juneau experienced for about a week and a half prior to Tuesday morning’s snowfall.

“We typically still have the ground fairly warm, but we’ve been through a period of time with below-normal temperatures,” said Truitt.

With temperatures rising, Truitt said accumulation gets harder to predict even if temperatures fall low enough for the precipitation to turn back to snow at night.

“Once you do that warm-up … you’re going to go back and forth between rain and snow,” Truitt said.

Daytime temperatures will be in the 40s by the weekend, according to the forecast.

“You do have rain sweeping into the area for this weekend, and it will be a steady, widespread rain,” Truitt added.

Juneau is not the only Southeast Alaska community experiencing some winter weather this week.

Haines Borough is expected to have six to 10 inches of snow on the ground heading into Wednesday, while the Municipality of Skagway Borough could have eight inches to a full foot of snow above 1,500 feet, potentially complicating travel on the Klondike Highway connecting Skagway to Whitehorse, Yukon, Truitt said.

Haines Borough is under a winter weather advisory until 7 a.m. Wednesday, while a winter weather warning has been issued for Skagway above 1,500 feet until the same time.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.


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