The Heat Is Online

Anchorage Buried By Record 28-inch Snowfall

Record snow closes Anchorage schools
Storm dumps more than 28 inches, shuts down Fort Richardson

Anchorage Daily News, March 18, 2002

Anchorage was buried under a record snowfall Sunday that kept most people indoors while city crews hustled to clear roads and police answered a barrage of calls from motorists in ditches.

Sunday evening, officials from the Anchorage School District announced that all public schools in the district will be closed on Monday. The University of Alaska Anchorage will also be closed on Monday, its Web site reported. Both said they will be open Tuesday.

Fort Richardson will also be shut down Monday, Army officials said in a press release. The closure includes child care facilities, and only necessary personnel will be recalled, the release said. The ceremony to don the Army's new black berets has be rescheduled for Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.

Also closed will be Catholic Social Services programs, including the food pantry, pregnancy and adoption services, immigration and refugee aid, the Beyond Shelter and special needs services. The Anchorage Chamber of Commerce has postponed it's ATHENA luncheon that was scheduled for Monday.

"We're talking mega snow," said Sam Provenzano, acting director of city street maintenance.

The dumping broke the record for a 24-hour snowfall and the most snowfall in a single day, said National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Peterson.

The storm, which started Saturday evening, dumped 28.6 inches of snow on the official recording station at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. That total easily surpassed the old record of 15.6 inches recorded on Dec. 28 and Dec. 29, 1955.

On Sunday, 24.6 inches were measured by the weather service, topping the old record of 15.6 inches set on Dec. 29, 1955.

Temperatures hovered in the high 20s.

"I'm glad it's not above freezing," Peterson said. "Heavy, wet snow would really have shut us down."

At Anchorage International Airport, snow crews constantly plowed two runways, according to airport spokesman Mark Butler. He didn't know if the weather was to blame for an early morning collision between a taxiing Alaska Airlines MD-80 passenger plane and a taxiing EVA Airways MD-11. No one was hurt in the 3 a.m. ground collision, although both planes sustained damage.

The mishap will be investigated, Butler said.

At least 16 cargo planes were diverted from Anchorage to Fairbanks International Airport Sunday, said Ric Barnett, operations supervisor at the Fairbanks airport.

Throughout the Anchorage bowl, snow was falling at a rate of one to two inches an hour, tapering off by Sunday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. Peterson said

the snowstorm was expected to end Sunday night.

The highest concentrations were the western and central parts of town.

Snowplow crews struggled to keep up. They piled the snow into huge piles on road edges and medians and planned to eventually transfer it to city snow dumps.

"A part of the problem is that it's coming down as fast as we can rid of it, Provenzano said. "People out on the roads is also a problem. The streets are emptier than usual, but not enough."

With the fresh snow thigh-deep in places, authorities urged people to stay put. And most did. Many who ventured out got stuck in deep snow banks or slid into ditches. Police dispatchers said emergency phone-lines were "ringing off the hook."

For the most part, businesses managed to stay open throughout Anchorage. But numerous workers were calling in to say they couldn't get their cars out of their driveways. And taxicabs were booked for hours.

Barbara Gorder, service manager at a Carrs Safeway store, was surprised that the usual number of people decided to do their grocery shopping despite the harsh weather.

"But I guess it's just like Alaskans to say, 'What the heck,' and go out anyway," Gorder said.