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Anchorage On Pace For Snowiest Winter On Record

David McNew/Getty Images

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Heavy snow fell in Alaska’s largest city Thursday, adding to what already has been the snowiest period for Anchorage since records have been kept.

The National Weather Service predicted a snowfall of 8-16 inches, with the city’s upper Hillside neighborhoods expected to get the bulk of the snow.

It began snowing shortly before midnight. The heaviest snow was expected between 3 a.m. and noon.

“It’s snowing pretty good right now,” forecaster Christian Cassell said at 4:30 a.m. Thursday at the Anchorage weather service office. The snow had been intermittent but the rate was increasing.

“We still expect a decent amount of snow,” Cassell said.

Anchorage schools were open Thursday, but some school bus routes were canceled because of whiteout driving conditions. It mainly affects students living south of Anchorage and buses that must use the Seward Highway.

The weather service counts a snow year from July to June. From July 1 through Tuesday, Anchorage has received 81.3 inches of snow. Meteorologist Shaun Baines said that makes it the snowiest period for Anchorage since records have been kept.

If the pace keeps up through the last snows in either April or May, Anchorage is on track to have the snowiest winter ever, surpassing the previous record of 132.8 inches in 1954-55, Baines said.

About 150 miles to the southeast of Anchorage, the Prince William Sound community of Cordova has already been buried under 172 inches of snow since Nov. 1 and is trying to dig out from recent storms.

Another 4 to 7 inches could fall Thursday, Baines said.

City officials in Cordova, a picturesque fishing community, already have learned that a regular shovel just won’t cut it when you’re digging out from nearly 15 feet of snow.

There were plenty of standard shovels around town. But what they needed was a larger version with a scoop that can push a cubic foot of snow or better at a time.

“That’s what’s missing in Alaska,” city spokesman Tim Joyce said Wednesday.

Not anymore.

“We will be shipping 72 shovels to Alaska by plane (Thursday) to help,” said Genevieve Gagne, product manager at the shovel’s maker, Quebec, Canada-based Garant.

The new shovels cost about $50 each, and the city is paying for them with its emergency funds.

The Yukon ergo sleigh shovels, with a 26-inch scoop, have a huge advantage over regular shovels. “Trying to lift snow all day with those is pretty backbreaking,” Joyce said.

“We have the National Guard right now using the standard shovel, and they’re getting pretty trashed everyday — not the shovels but the Guardsmen themselves,” he said.

Temperatures warmed Wednesday, when residents awoke to standing water because of stopped-up drains. The rain also made the existing snow heavier.

The warmer temperatures — about 35 degrees midday Wednesday — brought another hazard to the Prince William Sound community of 2,200 people: avalanche danger.

There’s one road leading out, and it was closed though it could be opened for emergency vehicles.

The city also is warning people not to stand under the eaves of their houses to clear snow off the roof for fear the snow will come down on them.

“There’s a real high potential that if it does slide, they’d be buried,” he said.

So far, four commercial buildings and two homes have been damaged from snow accumulation on roofs. A 24-unit apartment complex also had to be evacuated.

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