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Officials predict normal winter

Forecasters measure 4.2 inches of snow Monday at airport

Posted: Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Just days after forecasters wrapped up their weather predictions for the winter, Juneau residents saw on Monday the first major snow of the season.

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At 3:30 p.m. on Monday, forecasters measured 4.2 inches of snow at the Juneau International Airport. At roughly the same time, 5.2 inches of snow had accumulated at the National Weather Service station on Back Loop Road in the Mendenhall Valley.

"This is the first time (this season) we've actually had any snow that has accumulated on the ground," forecaster Rick Fritsch said.

The National Weather Service is predicting "near normal snowfall" this winter, or roughly 95 inches, Fritsch said Monday.

That is far less than last year's record-breaking winter of about 200 inches.

"We here locally think we will see slightly cooler than normal conditions and slightly less than normal precipitation," Fritsch said.

The agency just completed its Juneau weather study for the coming winter, he said.

"In terms of snowfall we think it will be a near normal winter here in Juneau," Fritsch said.

The "normal" snowfall recorded at the airport averages out to 94.7 inches a year, he said. Last year's record-breaking winter saw 197.8 inches of snowfall at the airport.

December averages 20.7 inches of snow annually at the airport, with an average temperature of 28.7 degrees. January, the city's coldest month, averages 25.7 degrees and 28.9 inches of snow. February averages 17.8 inches of snow with an average temperature of 28.9 degrees.

Monday's snowfall led Capital Transit to implement route changes.

It was a good day for the Eaglecrest Ski area, but skiers and snowboarders should remain patient for the season to begin, general manager Kirk Duncan said.

"It's been snowing fairly hard all day," he said Monday. "I consider it snowing hard if I can't see a hundred yards or so."

At 9:30 a.m. Monday, two inches were at the bottom of the mountain and 30 were at the top.

Over the course of the business day, roughly six inches accumulated at the base of the mountain, Duncan said. He estimated another foot-and-a-half accumulated at the top of the mountain.

Although that may seem like enough snow for some die-hard skiers and snowboarders, there are parts of the mountain that need four to five feet of compacted snow before the ski area can open for the season, Duncan said.

"It's all snow dependent," he said.

Fritsch said people shouldn't get too excited about the snow sticking around in town. The weather is expected to warm a bit and clear up this evening after some rain, he said.

"What's left of the precipitation will most likely be rain unless you get really high up," Fritsch said.

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



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