‘Anomaly’ winter storm closes Anchorage and Mat-Su schools, slows traffic

A woman shovels snow.
Tess Herzog shovels snow during lunch in East Anchorage on Monday. (Valerie Kern/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage got hit Sunday with another record-breaking snowfall, just days after a prior storm dropped more than 2 feet of snow in parts of town.

The latest storm brought more than a foot of new snow. The snow again closed schools, tangled traffic and left some residents frustrated about unplowed roads. At least two more storms are forecast to hit Anchorage later this week.

National Weather Service meteorologist Carson Jones said the recent storm was fueled by a meeting of cold air from the Bering Sea with a plume of moisture from the Pacific Ocean. Most of the snow fell in Anchorage between about 3 p.m. Sunday and 9 a.m. Monday, in a remarkably even pattern across town, he said.

“Pretty uniformly, kind of in the Bowl, we’re looking at anywhere from 15 to 18 inches, and then kind of as you move up into the Hillside anywhere from 18 (inches) to 2 feet of snow,” he said.

The weather service warned of hazardous driving conditions overnight and into Monday morning.

Anchorage’s public bus service was canceled Monday because of road conditions. By 12:30 p.m., Anchorage police had received reports of 83 vehicles stuck due to snow or ice, eight non-injury crashes and one injury crash.

A Mini Cooper sits stuck in snow in the middle of a residential road.
A Mini Cooper sits stuck in the middle of the road on Monday. (Valerie Kern/Alaska Public Media)

The snow meant another day off for Anchorage students. Monday was their fourth snow day in a row. It’s unusual for students to have even two straight snow days, let alone four. The Anchorage School District announced Monday’s school closure around 5 a.m., it later also decided to cancel all after-school activities.

The University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University also canceled classes Monday due to poor road conditions.

RELATED: Anchorage school officials consider remote learning as winter storms keep students home for 4 days

Larry Muehlhausen uses a snow blower to remove the snow from his driveway in East Anchorage. (Valerie Kern/Alaska Public Media)

The recent storm hit the Kenai Peninsula and Mat-Su area, too.

The weather service reported 17 to 24 inches of snow in Nikiski and Soldotna. In much of the Mat-Su, snow totaled from 12 to 15 inches. Chickaloon reported the region’s largest snowfall: 30 inches.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District closed nearly all of its schools for the day Monday, and the Mat-Su Borough School District announced a remote learning day.

State of Alaska offices in Anchorage, Mat-Su and the Kenai Peninsula also closed Monday.

RELATED: Kenai woman killed by plow truck in whiteout conditions

Meanwhile, the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport remains opened, with some flight delays and cancellations listed in online flight data. Airport spokeswoman Megan Peters urged passengers to check with their airlines and confirm flight schedules before traveling to the airport on Monday.

An RV is covered in snow and icicles hang from the roof.
A Winnebago is heavy with snow and icicles in the Airport Heights neighborhood. (Valerie Kern/Alaska Public Media).

According to Pam Szatanek, another weather service meteorologist, the moisture plume that led to the latest storm was more than 500 miles wide and 2,000 miles long when it reached Alaska.

“We had an atmospheric river come from the central Pacific, so literally the moisture was coming from Hawaii,” she said. “It was an anomaly, it was really strong – it was a deep fetch of tropical moisture, and that’s what fed this system.”

The snowfall shattered local records in Anchorage, with Sunday’s 9 inches of snow demolishing a 6-inch record for Dec. 11, set in 2007.

It was also notable, Jones said, that Anchorage got two major storms nearly back-to-back.

“I think this might be one of the first weeks in a seven-day period where Anchorage just had two foot-plus snowstorms,” he said. “So it definitely was pretty significant for it to happen twice in a row like that.”

RELATED: Anchorage Mayor Bronson commits more workers and equipment to snow removal

Snow is piled high on a book drop box.
A winter storm blanketed Anchorage with more than a foot of snow. (Valerie Kern/Alaska Public Media)

Sunday’s storm also pushed Anchorage past its annual liquid precipitation record, 27.55 inches set in 1989.

“With this last storm, we are now first place with total precipitation,” said Jones. “Assuming it continues to precipitate through the New Year – and 1989 didn’t have a bunch of big storms right at the end there – we will be the wettest year on record if this were to hold.”

The Anchorage forecast calls for 2 to 4 inches of additional snow from a smaller storm Tuesday, Jones said, mostly arriving between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. Another large storm may arrive Wednesday or Thursday.

KNBA’s Rhonda McBride contributed information to this story.

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A large truck drives through a heavy snowfall.
Crews begin clearing heavy snowfall early Monday. (Valerie Kern/Alaska Public Media)

Chris Klint is a web producer and breaking news reporter at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at cklint@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Chris here.

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