The Anchorage area saw its first snow of the season Monday, with an afternoon dusting giving way to slick roads early Tuesday before temperatures warmed.
National Weather Service meteorologist Kaitlyn O’Brien said snowfall in Anchorage tapered off by about midnight, with reports Monday night ranging from 1 inch of snow in West Anchorage to 3 to 4 inches on the Anchorage Hillside. The most snow, 4.2 inches, was recorded in the Eagle River Valley.
Some Alaskans caught outside in the snow Monday greeted it with glee.
By Tuesday morning the weather service urged Anchorage and Matanuska Valley drivers to slow down on area roads, due to possible “areas of black ice” from snowfall and rain.
“We saw some temperatures cool off overnight, the cloud cover lifted,” O’Brien said. “And so with clear skies, we really brought those temperatures down during the overnight hours allowing a little bit of icing to form.”
Anchorage police dispatchers said inbound traffic on the Glenn Highway was slowed near Eagle River at about 7 a.m. by a vehicle that had slid off the road. By 10:30 a.m. police had received reports Tuesday of 16 accidents, four of them involving injuries, plus 13 vehicles in distress.
No further snowfall was expected in town Tuesday, according to O’Brien, with daytime temperatures rising into the mid-40s.
“It should be a nice calm, clear day for the most part,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said Anchorage snowfall records, dating back to 1952, are based on measurements taken at the weather service’s local office near Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
The earliest first snowfall recorded to date was in 1996 on Sept. 21, with the latest in 2002 on Nov. 13. Anchorage’s first snowfall, on average, takes place on Oct. 16.
“For the month of October, our normal snowfall amount for the month is right around 5.6 inches, and so here at our office, we had 1 inch of snowfall yesterday,” O’Brien said. “So we’re approaching the middle of the month, but (snowfall) seems to be right on track for this time period right now.”
First snowfall amounts range from a tenth of an inch to the record of 8.6 inches, set on Oct. 19, 1954.
“The greatest amount of snow that we’ve ever seen on Oct. 10 was 7.4 inches, and that occurred in 1965,” O’Brien said. “So that was definitely a lot more snow than what we saw yesterday here.”
Meteorologists have issued a winter storm watch for a system set to move through the Copper River Basin and Thompson Pass, bringing heavy snowfall to Valdez and areas to the northeast Wednesday night into Thursday morning.
“They’re looking at 6 to 12 inches during that time period,” O’Brien said.