Snow likely to stick around

Cold temperatures and more wind downtown expected this week
DJ Kyser skis on Montana Creek Road as she heads toward the Mendenhall Glacier Campground on Monday. The Juneau Nordic Ski Club has set skate and classic track at the campground as well as out onto Mendenhall Lake.

A little more than five inches of snow fell at Juneau International Airport Sunday, and a National Weather Service forecaster in the Juneau Forecast Office on the Back Loop said Monday afternoon that it will probably stay on the ground for the next week or more.

“Pretty much what’s on the ground now is what we’re probably going to see the whole next week,” said Kimberly Vaughan. “It shouldn’t go anywhere, for the most part, unless it blows away.”

And after the Thanksgiving wind storm that blasted downtown Juneau and Douglas with powerful gales last Thursday and Friday, more wind is in store this week, with forecaster Rick Fritsch saying gusts will pick up Tuesday night and continue into Thursday or beyond.

“It’s kind of looking like a Taku event Tuesday night into Wednesday, probably Thursday as well,” Vaughan added, referring to the powerful downslope northeasterly winds that periodically affect Juneau during the colder months.

Fritsch accurately forecast the weather over last week’s holiday (http://bit.ly/TUpoR4), but acknowledged Monday that he “didn’t anticipate” the snowfall over the weekend.

“I was focusing on that wind event that happened … Thursday afternoon,” said Fritsch. “I was working that desk, so my tunnel vision ended Friday morning. That’s my alibi.”

Forecasters in the office were surprised by how much snow actually came down Sunday, with Jim Truitt saying of their snow prediction, “We had to adjust it upward.”

About 5.5 inches fell at the Juneau Forecast Office itself Sunday, while about five inches fell downtown over the course of the weekend.

Up at the Eaglecrest Ski Area’s base lodge, snowfall was actually less, with about four inches of new snow recorded, Vaughan said.

Temperatures are likely to stay below freezing in the Mendenhall Valley throughout the week, while downtown Juneau could see warming just above freezing during the day Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the forecast.

Specific area forecasts can be found using a tool on the NWS webpage for Juneau called a “detailed point forecast” (http://1.usa.gov/TmYuD0), which lets users click a point on the map of the City and Borough of Juneau to read about expected weather conditions in that area.

Vaughan advised users of the tool to pay attention to the specified elevation for each point, as Juneau’s rugged terrain means there may be sharp variances in elevation leading to radically different weather.

The Taku winds expected to rake Juneau this week are likely to have a positive effect on road conditions, Vaughan said.

“The good news is, with the wind, it does dry things out,” said Vaughan. “With not a lot of new precip expected, if we can keep the roads dry, then there won’t be anything left on the roads to freeze.”

But there is a possibility of snow late in the week, with “probably amounts less than an inch” showing up overnight Thursday and into Friday, Vaughan added.

Any new snow could complicate Friday’s morning commute.

“A little bit of precip toward the end of the week here will slush up the roads again,” said Vaughan.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, which also plows and de-ices main roads around Juneau in snowy or icy conditions, offers online advice to drivers facing the wintry conditions common throughout the state this time of year (http://1.usa.gov/TZOUUY).

Echoing several of the DOT&PF’s main points, Vaughan recommended “using caution — especially Friday morning’s commute … will be the obvious hazard — as far as giving more time to get up, get your cars cleared off, get all your windows cleared; leaving more time so you can go slower; leaving more space between you and the cars in front of you.”

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

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