Anchorage’s early snow unofficial but pleasing to zoo’s polar bears, otters

Snow spotted on Anchorage’s Hillside on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021. (Matthew Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

Snow blanketed parts of Alaska’s largest city Tuesday morning, as Anchorage saw an early, though unofficial, first snowfall of the season.

The heaviest snowfall was east of the city, with more than 4 inches outside of Eagle River at higher elevations and up to 3 inches on Anchorage’s upper Hillside.

“A lot of our people that were coming in from the east side and Eagle River and stuff, they definitely had between a half and an inch on their cars, and it stayed there until they pulled into the parking lot,” said Michael Kutz, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.

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It was melting by midday, but temperatures remained colder in other parts of Southcentral north of the city, with snow and frozen slush on sections of the Glenn and Richardson highways.

Tuesday’s snow in Anchorage was unofficial, though, because none was reported at the National Weather Service’s official measuring spot on the city’s west side.

“If it had, it would have tied for earliest on record,” said Brian Brettschneider, a climate researcher with the Weather Service.

Some Anchorage residents woke up Tuesday to the first snow of the season. (Matthew Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

Depending on their location or attitude, some Anchorage residents enjoyed the snow more than others. But Alaska Zoo Director Pat Lampi said, without fail, two animals at the zoo appreciate fresh snow the most: polar bears and river otters.

“Otters always enjoy snowfall. They kind of like the running and sliding, so anytime there’s a fresh snowfall, they’re out doing their bobsledding thing,” Lampi said. “Polar bears, (it’s) just the cooler temperatures, and they kind of like grooming themselves, rolling in the snow, it helps clear their fur.”

As for Interior Alaska, Fairbanks saw some snow Monday and more than an inch Tuesday on the borough’s eastern edge. Winter storm warnings were in effect until Wednesday for other parts of the Interior.

Anchorage’s Hillside on Tuesday. (Matthew Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

In Anchorage, the snow quickly gave way to wind, with gusts up to 40 mph in some locations. Chugach Electric crews were working into the early afternoon Tuesday to restore power from wind-related outages in the city, as well as Hope and Cooper Landing.

The wind was forecast to calm by Wednesday morning.

According to the Weather Service’s forecast, there’s a chance of snow in Anchorage late Wednesday and snow and rain likely Thursday and Friday.

Casey Grove is host of Alaska News Nightly, a general assignment reporter and an editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at Read more about Casey here

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