Heavy winds and wet snow lead to icy streets and power outages in Anchorage

Heavy winds toppled trees across much of Anchorage on Thurs. Feb. 22, 2024. (Valerie Lake/Alaska Public Media)

Heavy winds and wet snowfall led to power outages and hazardous roads for Anchorage drivers Thursday morning. 

“It’s going to be a little nuts out there until some more melting or they get some of the streets cleaned up,” said National Weather Service Meteorologist Michael Kutz. 

The official NWS measuring location at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport recorded just over 2 inches of snow. However, Kutz said Joint-Base Elmendorf Richardson saw about 4 inches and Lake Otis and 80th Avenue near the Abbott Loop neighborhood saw just under 5 inches. 

“The possibility of this stuff getting pressed down and freezing harder into an ice layer is right there,” Kutz said.

An Anchorage School District spokesman said roughly 75% of buses arrived late to school Thursday morning. As of 9:30 a.m., Anchorage Police officials said there were 20 reported collisions, with five reporting non-life threatening injuries. There were an additional 27 vehicles in distress. 

“When people were driving, and it started packing down, it gave you a very wet, greasy undercoat, and that makes it tough for people to drive,” Kutz said. “On top of places that might’ve already had some packed ice and snow underneath them.”

Kutz said the city recorded wind gusts as high as 82 mph in the Potter Marsh area, with the airport seeing gusts of around 69 mph.  

Those gusts led to downed trees and damaged power lines Thursday morning. As of 10:30 a.m., Chugach Electric reported 3,800 customers were without power, with about 750 of them near Debarr Road. 

Kutz said the city should see breezy weather through Friday afternoon, though the worst of the gusts appear to have passed. 

“Out of the South, 15-20 mph, with gusts up to 40 during the daylight hours today, dropping to about 25 tonight,” Kutz said.

He suggests that people tie down anything loose in their yards that might fly away with the wind. Kutz said the current forecast calls for scattered bands of snowfall through the weekend, though he’s not anticipating much accumulation.

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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