With Anchorage schools remote again, another storm hitting Southcentral Alaska

A boy in a yellow hoodie shovels snow.
Ali Fatty uses his day off from school to shovel his parents’ driveway on Monday, Nov. 13, 2023. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage schools remained closed Wednesday as road crews worked to clear local streets of snow, with another storm expected to increase the risk of power outages and potentially dump more than two feet of snow near Talkeetna by Friday.

The Anchorage School District announced Wednesday’s closure in a lengthy Facebook post that drew more than 500 comments Tuesday night. Although the post acknowledged that this week’s three days of remote learning have been “a burden” to parents, it cited “unsafe neighborhood road conditions” observed during the day as a factor in the decision.

Anchorage students have not had in-person school since Nov. 8.

“Large vehicles and small vehicles continue to get stuck. Some are left abandoned in the street preventing snow removal teams from clearing the roads,” district officials said. “The municipality is actively working to clear the neighborhoods but needs one more day.”

The post drew pushback hours later from Mayor Dave Bronson, who said in a statement that he was “really disappointed” by the decision to again close schools Wednesday.

“We are in constant communication with ASD throughout the day and provide them with frequent updates on the snowplowing operations,” Bronson said. “Ultimately, it is their decision, and we will continue working to get residential areas cleared so schools can open again, and buses can transport students safely.”

Meanwhile, a special weather statement from the National Weather Service warned of risks posed by falling trees Wednesday, namely power outages, in Anchorage and much of the Mat-Su, as high winds hit trees already carrying heavy snow load from Thursday’s 17-inch snowfall.

Weather Service meteorologist Carson Jones said Wednesday morning that a trough of low pressure moving over Western Alaska was sending winds along Cook Inlet into the Susitna Valley. Anchorage’s airport was already seeing gusts to 25 mph, with higher numbers reported at higher elevations.

“This morning, up on the Hillside, we’ve been seeing quite a few gusts in (the) 35 to 60-mile an hour range, and it’s just starting,” Jones said.

Jones said one factor in the snow load on trees was the particularly wet and heavy snow that fell Thursday morning.

“It was so wet that it really adhered to branches a lot better than a typical drier snow, which might shed off of the trees easier,” Jones said.

Although the Weather Service hadn’t received any reports of direct property damage from falling trees, Jones noted that the most likely impact is an increase in power outages as trees fall on electric lines.

By 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Matanuska Electric Association had crews restoring power to about 1,600 members, including about 800 members near Wasilla’s North Church Road and more than 100 members each in Big Lake, Eagle River and off Point MacKenzie Road. Chugach Electric crews were responding to a 220-member outage in Hope and bracing for more.

“With these high winds across the city – and especially on the Hillside – it could be another crazy day,” Chugach officials wrote Wednesday morning.

Although only a few inches of precipitation are expected in Anchorage and most of the Mat-Su, Jones said the storm will bring significant snowfall to areas farther to the north, from Talkeetna to Cantwell along the Parks Highway.

“It’s a long-duration event, so just kind of steadily snowing, but those accumulations will stack up over time,” Jones said.A winter weather advisory in effect until 5 p.m. Friday calls for about a foot of snow in Talkeetna, and up to 25 inches of snow at higher elevations.

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.

Previous articleAlaska communities must adapt as climate change transforms state, federal report says
Next articleAlaska’s domestic violence council explores restorative justice methods in court sentencing