Winter arrives in Juneau

Posted: Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A dusting of snow has covered Juneau, and caught some drivers off guard Tuesday.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

According to the National Weather Service, 1.5 combined inches of snow fell on Juneau on Monday and Tuesday. Juneau Police Department Lt. Kris Sell said by late afternoon, there had been 11 incidents where people could not keep their vehicles on the road.

"One of them was serious," she said. "There was a single car accident where four people were transported to the hospital. That closed down a lane of Egan for about a half an hour."

Sell said the injuries were non-life threatening.

"The first snow seems to be a steep learning curve for drivers about how vehicles handle in the snow," she said. "Even driving to work myself this morning, I saw some people hadn't slowed down at all for the weather."

Sell said a lot of those folks were in full-size SUVs, and that's problematic because they tend to give people a false sense of security. The surface of a tire that makes contact with the road, Sell said, is about the width of a person's hand. That range decreases with speed and is even more problematic with snowy or icy conditions.

"As far as being able to hold on to the road in this weather, one significant piece of advice is to slow down," she said. "... Another caution for us, is we get a lot of fire and police officers standing next to the roadways trying to get people out of vehicles, trying to make a safe buffer for the tow truck. We encourage people to slow down and give those emergency responders a bit of breathing room."

Sell said the Capital City chapter of the Alaska Peace Officers Association is having its winter driving class from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 5, 2011 at JPD headquarters, 6255 Alaway Ave. Reservations are not required. Sell said it's taught by their accident reconstructionist and typically they see a lot of parents bringing their teen drivers.

At the Juneau International Airport, manager Jeannie Johnson said everything went normally.

"Our guys have been getting ready for this for at least the past month," she said. "It's what they really like to do. Everything is just as it should be."

Deputy airport manager Patricia deLaBruere said Juneau has barely been impacted by Seattle and Anchorage's weather, which is worse.

On Tuesday, one flight was delayed in getting to Juneau from Anchorage early in the day. On Monday, there were a few more delays incoming to Juneau, but deLaBruere said that's because of the ways deicing takes place. She said airlines have ways of planning and compensating for those initial delays so it really didn't impact Juneau.

Johnson reminds people to use the "cell phone parking lot" especially during the busy holiday season. Security rules prohibit people from parking at the loading zones to pick up incoming passengers. That lot is located next to Alaska Industrial Hardware and Shell Simmons Drive. Johnson said as soon as their guest lands, they can call the driver's cell phone and the driver can pick them up.

The weather service's forecast for Juneau today is for up to 1 inch of snow in the morning. The high temperature is expected to be around 40 degrees Fahrenheit, with the low at about 36 degrees.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@ juneauempire.com.



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