Big snow hits Juneau, finally

Record crowd, revenue descend on Eaglecrest

Posted: Tuesday, January 18, 2005

After a couple of months of snow deprivation, Juneau residents got a big consolation prize from Mother Nature on Monday.

The pile of snow covering Juneau could peak at 36 inches tonight before it is replaced by rain.

On Monday, a state and federal holiday, local residents celebrated their fortune by showing up in a record number at Eaglecrest Ski Area.

At least one person tried a riskier adventure: climbing a 20-foot-tall iceberg at Mendenhall Lake.

"It was a significant fall," said Capital City Fire and Rescue Capt. Beth Weldon, of the outcome of the iceberg climb.

Capital City Fire and Rescue personnel hiked through knee-deep snow blanketing Mendenhall Lake at noon Monday to reach the injured victim and provide medical aid. The individual, whose name, gender and medical status were not released Monday, was towed out on a litter carried by a snowmachine and transported to Bartlett Regional Hospital, according to Weldon.

Juneau police reported poor driving conditions but few accidents - none with injuries.

"It's remarkable, I suppose," Officer Greg Drake said.

Drake cautioned that road conditions will get worse tonight, when the snow is expected to be replaced by freezing rain.

"If you don't need to be out on the road, stay at home," he said.

The National Weather Service reported 8 inches of snowfall on Monday and forecast 6 more inches on Monday night and 6 inches on top of that today. Meteorologists forecast another 6 inches on today night, and then rain likely lasting through the weekend.

On Douglas Island, Juneau residents were having a blast. Eaglecrest finally opened all of its ski runs on Monday morning and a foot of new snow covered the mountaintop.

It was the busiest day Eaglecrest General Manager Kirk Duncan could remember. The official estimate was 1,625 skiers.

"It was a record day, revenue-wise," said Duncan, who declined to give a dollar amount.

The Eaglecrest crowd was inevitable. Combine the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday with a major snow dump and a lot of pent-up frustration about poor downhill-ski conditions since November and you've got prime conditions for a ski area convergence of epic proportions.

"Light dry snow - it's heaven," said Duncan, who noted a line of 200 people at the Ptarmigan ski lift at 9:50 a.m.

The ski area's parking lot reportedly was full by early afternoon and skiers were getting dropped off by friends and family.

"It's a big mountain and it absorbs a lot of people," Duncan said. "We really didn't have any problems," he said.

Juneau's snow storm is being helped along by a series of low-pressure centers that are pushing warm, moist air into the Panhandle. Thanks to the recent cold snap, "there's a scenario with a lot of moisture aloft and it comes down as snow," said Brian Tassia, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Juneau Forecast Office.

The record snowfall for a single day at the Juneau International Airport was 30 inches in 1948. The record for Monday's date is 15 inches, which fell in 1994 - a big snow year for Juneau, Tassia said.

Tassia said the fresh layer of snow and freezing rain may create hazards over the next few days, from falling tree limbs and power lines to avalanches.

"I'm not looking forward to when the rain comes," Drake said. "The roads will be very bad at that point. We will see more accidents," he said.

He cautioned drivers to be especially careful on bridges and curvy roads and to follow other vehicles at a safe distance.

• Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at

elizabeth.bluemink@juneauempire.com.



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