Alaskans in the Interior digging out after a wintry weekend wallop of snow, ice, wind

Snow piles up in a truck.
Healy-area resident Kris Capps says she shoveled enough snow off her porch Sunday to enable her to open the front door. But she hadn’t yet excavated a path to the truck she usually drives when it gets snowy. (Kris Capps)

The Interior is digging out from the region’s second major storm this week.

Another foot of snow fell in Fairbanks Tuesday into Wednesday and the community continues to deal with rough road conditions and power outages caused by falling trees.

The new snow was accompanied by high winds that caused drifting. Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Bryce Ward says plowing operations are trying to catch up.

“It is still going to be sometime before all of our roads are cleared,” he said.

According to the state Department of Transportation, crews focused Wednesday on opening up access but cautioned of narrow lanes until they can get back and fully clear roadways. The situation is worse outside town, including over Steese Highway Summits where work continues to open the road and get plows beyond to Central and Circle.  

Power lines across a roadway.
A resident who lives along Old Valdez Trail south of Fairbanks had to turn around when she encountered a downed power line across the roadway. Golden Valley Electric Association crews have been busy since Christmas Eve repairing problems like this, which often are caused by heavily snow-laden trees falling across power lines. (Facebook)

Meanwhile, several hundred Golden Valley Electric customers remained without electricity as of Wednesday night due to storm bent and broken trees on power lines and poles. Robert Altman and his wife are among Eielson Farm Road area residents who haven’t had power since Sunday.

A man kneels with a generator.
Robert Altman. (Rebecca Altman)

“The only thing that’s been helping us is we have a little Craftsman generator that we bought from Home Depot,” he said.

Altman said the 2,200-watt portable generator is enough to keep their Toyostove heater and other essentials powered.

“I also raise chickens so we have our chicken coop plugged in, and then we alternate the plug ins for the refrigerator,” he said. “You know we’ll plug it in during the day and then unplug it at night when we aren’t going to be opening it.  We go and get water from the regular water place like everybody else. My wife’s been cooking on a little butane cook stove.”  

Altman said nine area power poles located well off the road are damaged.  

“They need a bulldozer to get to where the poles are,” he said.

The Eielson Farm Road outage is one of over 100 that Golden Valley Electric Association is working to fix. An online post from the utility said it has 18 crews in the field and nine more coming up from Anchorage with the goal of restoring service to all customers by late Friday. It notes that some customers have sustained to damage to private power equipment that the utility is not responsible for. 

Meanwhile, temperatures are forecast to cool, and Mayor Ward said the borough’s emergency operations center is working with the Red Cross to help any residents without heat.

“To provide housing vouchers for folks that are without power that are not able to get that power re-secured,” he said.

Ward said no one had requested assistance as of Wednesday night, but encourages people to check on their neighbors

While borough emergency and road service operations are functioning, many other borough services including library and recreation remain shut down due to storm impacts.

The weather pattern that funneled so much moisture into the Interior is shifting, and no additional storms are forecast. National Weather Service meteorologist Bobby Bianco said Fairbanks December 2021 snowfall is nearing a record.

“We’ve had around 47 inches of snow, the second snowiest on record,” Bianco said.

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There’s a chance of a little light snow Friday, which could push Fairbanks past the December record of 50.4 inches set in 1984. The last week has included both snow and rain and Bianco said this month’s total water equivalent of 6 inches is already a Fairbanks December record.

“Astronomically high,” Bianco said. “It’s definitely top three wettest months on record, including summer months.”

December’s snow and rain have also helped make 2021 Fairbanks wettest year. 

RELATED: Unalaska and Kodiak set winter warm weather records

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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