Anchorage schools closed as city tackles record snow

Posted: Monday, March 18, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Schools were closed in Anchorage Monday as residents tried to dig out from under a record snowfall over the weekend.

The storm caught the city by surprise, dumping 28.6 inches of snow for a new 24-hour record. Flights were canceled or diverted to Fairbanks and drivers got stuck on roads or wound up ditches.

The storm started at 4:50 p.m. Saturday and tapered off by 7 p.m. Sunday. It far surpassed Anchorage's 24-hour snowfall record of 15.6 inches, set Dec. 29, 1955.

School district officials decided to close public schools until Tuesday when they learned the city wouldn't clear out side streets and cul-de-sacs until sometime Monday. University of Alaska Anchorage also was closed Monday, with classed resuming Tuesday.

On Sunday, Alaska Airlines canceled about a third of its 40 to 50 flights at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, a spokesman said. Eighteen cargo planes were diverted to Fairbanks International Airport.

Sometime before 3 a.m. Sunday, an Eva Airways cargo jet collided with an Alaska Airlines passenger jet while taxiing at the airport, but airport spokesman Mark Butler said he didn't know the cause. There were no injuries, but both planes sustained damage, Butler said. Eva is a Taiwanese airline.

Throughout the Anchorage bowl Sunday, snow was falling at a rate of one to two inches an hour, according to the National Weather Service. West and South Anchorage caught the worst of the storm, while parts of the Hillside had reported less snowfall.

Forecasters had predicted snowfall of only 6 to 8 inches as late as 5 p.m. Saturday. Forecasters underestimated the amount of moisture in the air coming from a storm in the Gulf of Alaska, forecaster Neil Murakami said.

Anchorage street crews also underestimated the storm initially but were at full capacity by about 7 a.m. Sunday, said Sam Provenzano, the city's acting street maintenance director.

More than 100 workers plowed the downtown business district and busy streets elsewhere. Provenzano said city roads should be cleared by Wednesday evening.

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