In a “broadscale commitment to lots of snow,” the National Weather Service’s Juneau Forecast Office issued a winter storm warning for most of Southeast Alaska on Wednesday, said Tom Ainsworth, the meteorologist in charge of the office.
The warning itself means that forecasters expect a certain rate of snowfall: six inches of snow in 12 hours, or (redundantly, as Ainsworth points out) 12 inches in 24 hours.
Ainsworth said Juneau will likely be blanketed by a foot of snow by Friday, although he noted the warning calls for up 20 inches in the Juneau borough, which also covers Hoonah and Gustavus.
The weather forecasters issued the warning during the midnight shift Tuesday night and then updated it on Wednesday at about 1:15 p.m. Originally it called for the warning to begin on Wednesday at midnight, but they moved it up to 6 p.m. “at the tail end of rush hour Wednesday, to let people know what’s starting,” Ainsworth said.
The warning will be in effect until 6 a.m. Friday. A gale warning is also in effect for most of Southeast. For more information or for updates, visit weather.gov/juneau.
Ainsworth said this is a “classic snow pattern” for the area. Juneau sees clear, cold days and once the clouds and precipitation move in, so does the snow. Once it warms up, it’s back to rain.
“The forecast question is how fast will it warm up,” Ainsworth said. “We think it will on Friday evening and it will turn over to rain.”
He added, “It’s really a complex transition from cold to snowy to windy and snowy to then straight rain. We’re going to see a variety of inclement weather between now and Friday.”
Another word for inclement is “lousy,” he joked.
Ainsworth also had some helpful advise for Juneauites: Shovel your driveway on Thursday while the snow is still light.
“If you wait until Friday, it’s going to get heavier and harder to move,” he said.
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