Juneau grapples with winter weather

Above-average snow, below-average temps ring in the new year

Posted: Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The New Year has seen above-average snowfall in its first several days after a snowier-than-average end to 2008.

David Sheakley / Juneau Empire
David Sheakley / Juneau Empire

At the beginning of 2009 nearly a foot-and-a-half of snow fell at the Juneau International Airport. The average snowfall in Juneau for the month of January is 28.9 inches at that location.

"Within the first four days of January we received 17.1 inches of snow," said Aaron Jacobs, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "We still have a good 25 days left, and I'm sure we can get 11.8 more inches of snow."

There were 32.8 inches that fell at the airport in December, "about 12 inches above normal," he said. It was also colder than average in December, Jacobs said. Last month the average temperature was 22.3 degrees, or 6.4 degrees colder than the monthly average of 28.7 degrees.

"The weather pattern that we've been having has constantly been bringing in the cold air, and the moisture that has been coming off the Gulf (of Alaska) has been keeping us snowing and snowing and snowing," Jacobs said.

A winter weather advisory was issued until 3 a.m. today, meaning forecasters expected an average of about 4 inches of snow over a 12-hour period. Jacobs said people could see scattered snow showers throughout the morning before the weather is expected to drop again later in the day and into the evening.

"We're gonna be transitioning from these snow showers back to bitterly cold and windy conditions," he said.

The above-average snow conditions have kept the city's streets and police departments busy in the New Year. Numerous accidents occurred throughout the community in the first several days of 2009, and city employees have been working diligently to keep the roads clear, officials said.

Sgt. Scott Erickson said the Juneau Police Department responded to a higher number of accidents than normal.

"At this point you would think people would realize it's snowy and icy but it seems we are going to quite a few more accidents than usual," he said.

Erickson said drivers should pay extra attention on the road and be alert at intersections, side streets and to watch out for possible snow berms in roadways.

"You want to drive at a speed that is much slower than the posted speed limit," he said. "That's for dry road conditions."

Streets Superintendent Mike Scott said people should be aware of snow removal operations in the Highland Drive area today and watch for yellow signs that indicate when streets need to be clear of vehicles. If cars are not removed owners could be issued citations and towed, plus cost the city additional money, he said.

It costs between $2,000 and $3,000 an hour to haul snow and that figure can grow when cars are in the way.

"If there are no cars it makes our job much easier, much faster and costs everybody a lot less," Scott said.

Street crews are working seven days and the city already spent $480,000 since the beginning of November on snow plowing, which doesn't include contracting or service agreements, Scott said.

"If (the snow) continues on like this for any bit of time it will be a concern," Scott said. "Right now we're sitting pretty good."

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.

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