Snowfall keeps flights grounded

Eaglecrest grabs 7 inches for its base but temperatures could turn it all into rain

Posted: Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Juneau and much of Southeast Alaska were socked by a Monday snowstorm, with more expected today.

The storm began at about 7 a.m., dumping five inches of snow in the Juneau area by Monday afternoon. The National Weather Service predicted about 6 inches of snowfall in Juneau Monday, and an 80 percent chance of precipitation today.

Most Monday Alaska Airlines flights to and from Juneau were canceled.

Monday afternoon the weather service predicted 4 to 10 inches of additional snow accumulation today.

Warmer air from the south pushed its way up the Inside Passage on Monday afternoon, turning some of the snow into icy rain, said Brian Tassia, a weather service forecaster. Northeasterly winds were expected to bring colder air through the Juneau area Monday night,

"There's a possibility of getting up to around a foot in some areas, but be wary because we're very close right now to rain," Tassia said Monday. "Temperatures are just below freezing in certain places. Accumulations could vary. It could be up to a foot in some areas and other areas 4 to 5 inches."

Snow accumulation around the Panhandle varied greatly on Monday, Tassia said, with about 10 inches of snowfall reported in Tenakee Springs and about 3 inches farther north in Skagway.

Tassia said 7 inches of snow had accumulated at the base of Eaglecrest Ski Area Monday afternoon.

But that's not enough to officially open the slopes, according Jeffra Clough, an Eaglecrest marketing director and ski instructor. Clough said it would take about 24 inches.

Eaglecrest had a snowpack of zero Monday morning at the bottom of the mountain before the snow started, Clough said.

She said the ski lift could be open by this weekend if the snowfall continues.

"It's the right kind of snow if it keeps snowing," she said, adding that the thick density of the snow would help contribute to the base.

Traffic accidents were at a minimum Monday, despite the heavy snowfall, according to Sgt. David Wrightson, of the Juneau Police Department.

"There were some very minor accidents and very few. I expected a lot," Wrightson said. "There were certain times when visibility was very bad. Combined with the slick roads it is very dangerous."

He said school closures for the holidays helped to keep cars off the road. Another contributing factor might have been the city's decision to let most nonessential workers leave early Monday. Workers at the Federal Building downtown also were relieved early Monday afternoon.

The city is keeping services operating but letting employees leave early on a staggered schedule "so we don't have a ton of vehicles on the road," said Deputy City Manager Donna Pierce.

Juneau International Airport reported about 4 inches of snow Monday afternoon. But it was poor visibility that kept nine of 11 flights from entering or leaving Juneau, according to Don Conrad, a spokesman for Alaska Airlines.

Airport Manager Allan Heese said he expects flights to and from Juneau to resume today.

• Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at timothy.inklebarger@juneauempire.com.



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