The white fluffy flakes that started falling Sunday was a sure sign that winter has arrived on the Kenai Peninsula.
Another sign of winter’s arrival is cars in ditches and the smell of new tires.
Zack Hezeltine, assistant manager of Kenai’s Alyeska Tire, said he had been busy selling and changing over tires Monday after central Kenai Peninsula residents awoke to 1.9 inches of fresh snow. He said the shop was booked all day.
“We are slammed,” Hezeltine said. “The other stores are in the same boat.”
Hezeltine said studded tires made up the most of Monday’s sales.
Area towing companies saw some activity Monday, but not more than in previous years.
Ira Beck, owner of Ace Towing, said he received a few calls to pull vehicles out with his winch, mostly in the Sterling area.
Typically he said he is busier during the first snowfall.
“Everyone figured out they need to slow down,” he said.
Yet Mike Craig, manager of Soldotna Y Towing, said he and his crew were called out several times Monday, mostly for winch outs, which is typical for the first snow. Craig said the majority of the chaos occurred over the weekend when there were patches of black ice.
According to Soldotna dispatch, the incidence of accidents remained low Monday, although the roads were slick.
Avery Harrison, a dispatcher for the Soldotna Police Department and Alaska State Troopers, said Monday was quieter than dispatchers anticipated.
“We have been surprised,” Harrison said. “There have been a lot less (calls) than expected.”
She said the majority of calls dispatch did receive were for vehicles that slid off the road or into ditches — events that police and troopers respond to.
Kenai Police Sgt. Scott McBride said late Monday that there were fewer accident than he expected. He said he noticed people were slowing down and driving more cautiously.
Megan Peters, Information officer for the Alaska State Troopers, wrote in an email that with the fresh snow, drivers need to make sure to stay focused on the road.
She cautioned drivers to slow down, make sure to give plenty of space between themselves and other vehicles, as well as signal intentions of stopping, turning or changing lanes well in advance.
She urged drivers to be aware and minimize distractions and to turn the music down to hear activity outside of the vehicle.
“The sound of your tires on the road, screeching, emergency vehicle sirens or the sound of a horn are often detected first,” she wrote. “If your music is too high you will miss these.”
It is also the time for residents to make sure vehicles are ready to be on the road.
Aside from good tires, Peters said before heading out, drivers need to make sure their brakes are working properly, all lights are clean and working, windows are clean and there is plenty of windshield washer fluid.
Also, with the temperatures dipping well below freezing, drivers need to have safety equipment such as warm gear and flares in easy to get locations.
Keeping a clutter-free vehicle is another important safety precaution.
“Your vehicle’s safety features are designed around the danger coming from the outside,” Peters wrote in an email. “When you have items inside of the vehicle, they become flying projectiles once involved in a collision.”
Sara J. Hardan can be reached at email@example.com.