Snow is fun for some, but it's work for others

Announcement at noon on opening of Eaglecrest Ski Area

Posted: Wednesday, January 25, 2006

While Tuesday's heavy snowfall was good news for many winter enthusiasts, it equated to a lot of hard work for others.

Law enforcement and road maintenance officials were kept on their feet Tuesday as snow piled up across town. Eaglecrest Ski Area employees also were busy preparing the mountain for a possible Thursday opening. Ski area managers will declare their intentions today at noon.

"It's looks really good and something very strange would have to happen for us not to open," Eaglecrest General Manager Kirk Duncan said Tuesday evening.

More than half a foot of snow had fallen at the National Weather Service's Juneau office by Tuesday afternoon, meteorologist Brian Bezenek said. The clouds are expected to dissipate today, bringing sunshine and temperatures as low as 10 degrees tonight.

City and state snowplows worked overtime to keep the roads clear and safe for commuters, while police responded to accident after accident Tuesday afternoon. Between 6 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. the Juneau Police Department responded to eight accidents and nine vehicles in ditches. Just after 11 a.m., between Mendenhall Valley and Lemon Creek, three vehicles waited in separate locations for assistance after sliding off the road.

"Speed does play a role in this and it pays to be extra cautious and to allow more time to get where you're going," Capt. Tom Porter said.

Several of the drivers in the accidents were cited for driving too fast in the snow.

Porter said the number of accidents on Tuesday was higher than a normal day in Juneau, but not totally unexpected. He said the police are also slowing down on the road.

"It may extend our response times because we are applying the same recommendations to ourselves," Porter said.

Mike Scott, the city's streets superintendent, said the street-clearing crew worked overtime to keep roads clear of excess snow, even if it may not appear so.

"Be patient. We get to everywhere when it's like this," Scott said. "It may not look like it, but we've been there and we'll be there again."

Scott said the city would remove snow from downtown once the weather cleared.

Scott estimated it costs the city about $2,500 an hour to remove snow, compared to about $1,800 an hour to plow the snow.

What snow costs

How much one hour of snow removal costs the city: $2,500.

How much one hour of snow plowing costs the city: $1,800.

How much the state spends in overtime and equipment costs during one day of heavy snow in Juneau: $5,000.

* All costs are estimates.

He said the more considerate people are to the snowplow drivers the easier and quicker the job gets done.

"The more they can stay off the streets and not park on the streets, the easier it is for us," he said.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities also has been working overtime to keep state roads clear, said Chris Morrow, director of construction maintenance and operation. He estimated Tuesday's heavy snow cost the state about $5,000 between overtime and equipment usage.

Morrow said he hopes people will remain patient while the department works on the priority roadways before fully addressing all of the pedestrian walkways in town.

Juneau International Airport was not hampered too much by the Tuesday's snow, with only one canceled flight and another delayed by nine minutes.

School district officials said they expected to make a decision on whether to hold school by 5 a.m. today, depending on the access to walkways for children and roads for bus drivers.

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