‘A real mess’: Freezing rain follows snow in Anchorage, with more to come

A person shovels a car out of a snowbank as another person watches.
As traffic slowed at a slippery downhill section of Northern Lights Boulevard in West Anchorage Tuesday morning, Donnie Bice says he swerved into a snowbank to avoid colliding into cars ahead of him. Another driver stopped to help shovel and successfully push his car out. Anchorage police say they’ve responded to 20 calls of ‘vehicles in distress’ from midnight to 10 a.m. on Tuesday. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

UPDATE: Anchorage and Mat-Su schools close as forecast calls for more rain and snow

A day after a bout of heavy afternoon snowfall wreaked havoc on rush hour roads, Anchorage residents woke up to freezing rain Tuesday that is expected to continue through the evening. 

The drizzle froze on contact with the ground Tuesday morning, coating roads across town and causing numerous car accidents. The Anchorage Police Department said that from midnight to 4 p.m. Tuesday, it got calls about 38 crashes, seven of them with injuries.

The Anchorage School District canceled after-school activities on Tuesday, and warned in an email to families that buses could be delayed because of the “deteriorating weather and road conditions.”

The stormy weather is expected to continue across much of Southcentral Alaska for the next week. 

“We’re going to be in this foggy low cloud drizzly weather pretty much until our next storm comes in overnight tonight,” said Shawn Baines, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage. 

Baines warned that temperatures across Anchorage are expected to hover around freezing for the next day or so, meaning a mix of rain and snow. Farther north in the Mat-Su, up to 6 inches of snow could fall between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, while farther south on the Kenai Peninsula, rain is in the forecast. 

The precipitation totals will likely be around 2 inches in Anchorage, which could make for a dangerous Wednesday morning commute, Baines said. 

“Bottom line: It looks like a real mess of rain, snow, maybe a brief period of freezing rain in there,” said Baines. 

Monday’s snowfall totaled around 4 inches through much of Anchorage. The heaviest snow fell around rush hour. About 1 inch per hour was falling from about 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Baines said. 

That took forecasters by surprise and led to treacherous road conditions. APD reported 28 crashes throughout the day on Monday, six of which caused injuries. APD says it got another 55 calls for vehicles stuck in the snow. 

The added layer of ice on top of Monday’s snow fall could bump up the avalanche danger too, Baines cautioned. 

The Hatcher Pass road was closed on Tuesday at mile 11 because of avalanche danger. Forecasters with the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center said slide danger would likely rise from “considerable” to “high” by Wednesday with up to 16 inches of snow forecast. Avalanche danger in Turnagain Pass was listed as “moderate” on Tuesday.

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Lex Treinen is covering the state Legislature for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at ltreinen@gmail.com.

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