2nd highest three-day snowfall in history hits Valdez

More than 68 inches pile up in town near Prince William Sound

Posted: Sunday, December 20, 2009

ANCHORAGE - Depending on whether they like snow, residents in Valdez either enjoyed or endured the town's second highest three-day snowfall on record.

The snow started falling early Monday, and by Wednesday more than 68 inches - nearly 6 feet - had piled up. The total fell six inches short of the record set in 1996.

And snow kept falling. By Friday the total was around 6½ feet.

It puts to shame the up-to-20 inches that fell on Anchorage recently.

"My God, our people don't even get out of bed for that, and I'm not kiddin' ya," said longtime resident Tom McAlister.

McAlister has lived in Valdez 50 years, longer than official records have been kept there, which began in the early 1970s. This week's allotment didn't much impress him.

"On my tippy toes I could look over the top of it," said McAlister, who is 5-foot-8.

But it was kind of a big deal for Peggy Perales with the National Weather Service. This is her second winter in Valdez, and while she knew she was in for a lot of snow, she finds having so much of it piled up around her a little eerie. The snow is so deep in her yard, only the top link of her 6-foot-tall chain-link fence is poking up.

"I'm glad I have well-trained dogs," she said. "They could step right over it, but they haven't."

John Strang remembers worse. He was around for Valdez's record snowfall winter, 1989-90, when the city got 561 inches (almost 47 feet). The average is closer to 330. He remembers walking across his yard and looking down on the cab of his truck.

Still, on Tuesday, after helping with basketball practice, his got his four-wheel-drive pickup stuck three times trying to get out of the school parking lot.

"I thought it was just me, that I wasn't quite ready for Valdez winter driving, until I drove home and saw one police cruiser pulling another police cruiser out of a parking lot, stuck just like I'd been stuck," he said.

In the 33 years Strang has been teaching in Valdez, he said the schools have never been closed on account of snow. All those years, they've only shut down three times, he said, and that was due to wind.

"I'm telling you," McAlister said, "we have one of the best snow removal crews in the world. Sometimes our street gets plowed twice a day."

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