Anchorage is digging out from more than a foot of heavy and wet snow.
The storm closed Anchorage and Mat-Su schools on Wednesday, slowed traffic and sent cars sliding off area roads. The Anchorage School District announced Wednesday evening that schools will again be closed Thursday.
“Due to the record snowfall in the last 24 hours, road conditions are not expected to be safe for travel tomorrow morning,” the district said in a statement around 5:45 p.m.
The Mat-Su Borough School District also closed most schools Thursday.
The snow started Tuesday afternoon, increased overnight and continued into Wednesday, piling onto city streets. The National Weather Service reported snow totals of 1 to 2 feet throughout the Anchorage area, with the most snow falling on the Hillside.
“This is the heaviest snowfall the Anchorage area has seen in over 20 years,” said state Department of Transportation spokesman Justin Shelby. “Our crews are keeping up as best they can.”
Anchorage police dispatchers had reports of 143 vehicles that had slid or gotten stuck on snowy roads between midnight and 1 p.m. Wednesday. Just four accidents were reported. None of them involved injuries.
Shelby said state road crews were scrambling to clear major roads in the area — including the Glenn and New Seward highways, as well as Minnesota Drive — before the evening commute. Drivers reported deep snow still swamping neighborhood streets.
The storm also dropped inches of snow in the Mat-Su area and southeast Kenai Peninsula.
The Anchorage and Mat-Su Borough school districts decided early Wednesday to close schools for the day. After-school activities were also canceled. The University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University closed Wednesday, too.
Snow tapered off by late Wednesday afternoon. Michael Kutz, a meteorogologist with the weather service, said temperatures will begin a fall to lows in the mid-teens Wednesday evening, with single digits expected by Thursday.
“Friday night will be cold, the coldest of the bunch,” Kutz said. “And that’s looking at basically about right near 0 on the west side, maybe a little bit below in some locations, and probably like 10 degrees below zero for the east side.”
The falling mercury will be accompanied by generally northerly winds, according to Kutz, with expected gusts of 15 to 25 mph.
“We may see some local areas of reduced visibility due to blowing snow, and also some light problems with drifting snow,” he said.
He said wind gusts may be higher in “channeled locations” like mountain passes.
Editor’s note: This story was updated Thursday with school closure information.