Parts of the Anchorage area could see more than a foot of new snow overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday afternoon.
The National Weather Service has the Anchorage area under a winter weather advisory from 3 p.m. Tuesday to 4 p.m. Wednesday. Forecasters are warning drivers to plan on slippery road conditions during their evening and morning commutes as snow and temperatures drop.
“The rush hour tonight is going to start getting interesting, because we have had light snow falling through the day here so far,” said Michael Kutz, a weather service meteorologist. “Later on this afternoon, when that colder air comes in, the character of the snow is going to be a little bit thicker, a little gloppier coming down — and that means it’ll accumulate a little easier.”
The weather advisory, updated late Tuesday, now calls for snowfall ranging from 9 to 14 inches. Kutz said the most snow will likely fall on the east side of town. The advisory says snow will intensify in the late afternoon, with the heaviest snow expected Tuesday evening and early Wednesday.
Kutz said the snow is coming from a low-pressure front with two centers bracketing the area, one of them near the Gulf of Alaska and the other near the Susitna Valley.
The snowfall will also be accompanied by a drop in temperatures, as the relatively warm 20-degree weather of the past week or so gives way to colder conditions. On Anchorage’s west side, typically the warmest part of town, temperatures are expected to hover around 4 to 6 degrees, said Kutz.
“The east side of town will be probably seeing subzero,” he said.
Justin Shelby, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said “every available operator” — about 15 people — will be using equipment Wednesday to help clear major Anchorage roads maintained by the state. Those include the Glenn and New Seward highways, DeBarr, Muldoon and Tudor roads, Northern Lights Boulevard and several others.
“We’re expecting the snowfall to be wet and densely packed, especially as it gets driven on,” Shelby said. “So drivers should be prepared for slick conditions, and just know that it is going to take us a little bit longer to remove the wet heavy snow from the roads.”
The snow is expected to taper off Wednesday, Kutz said, with more not expected until Sunday or Monday.
The storm could push Anchorage snow levels closer to what’s typical for this time of year. As of Tuesday morning, the weather service had recorded roughly 16 inches of snow total this season, at its official measuring station in West Anchorage. That’s almost 6 inches below average.
Forecasters are also beginning to gather winter data on snowpack at higher elevations, to track the risk of backcountry avalanches. The weather service had received a report of 28 inches of snowpack in Indian Pass south of Anchorage, Kutz said.
Avalanche danger was listed as moderate in the Turnagain Pass area and at elevations of Hatcher Pass above 2,500 feet, according to recent forecasts from the Chugach National Forest and Hatcher Pass avalanche centers.
[Sign up for Alaska Public Media’s daily newsletter to get our top stories delivered to your inbox.]