Record snowfall reported in Anchorage

Posted: Monday, March 18, 2002

ANCHORAGE -- Anchorage was buried under a record snowfall Sunday that kept most people indoors, while city crews hustled to clear roads and police answered a barrage of calls from motorists in ditches.

''We're talking mega snow,'' said Sam Provenzano, acting director of city street maintenance.

The dumping broke the known record for a 24-hour snowfall, said National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Peterson.

About 26 inches of snow had fallen between 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. The old 24-hour record was 15.6 inches, set Dec. 29, 1955, Peterson said.

Temperatures hovered in the high 20s.

''I'm glad it's not above freezing,'' Peterson said. ''Heavy, wet snow would really have shut us down.''

At Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, snow crews constantly plowed two runways, according to airport spokesperson Mark Butler. He didn't know if the weather was to blame for an early morning collision between a taxiing Alaska Airlines MD-80 passenger plane and a taxiing EVA Airways MD-11. No one was hurt in the 3 a.m. ground collision, although both planes sustained damage.

The mishap will be investigated, Butler said.

At least 16 cargo planes were diverted from Anchorage to Fairbanks International Airport Sunday, said Ric Barnett, operations supervisor at the Fairbanks airport.

Throughout the Anchorage bowl, snow was falling at a rate of one to two inches an hour, tapering off by Sunday afternoon, according to the NWS. Peterson said the snowstorm was expected to end Sunday night.

The highest concentrations were the western and central parts of town.

Snowplow crews struggled to keep up. They piled the snow into huge piles on road edges and medians and planned to eventually transfer it to city snow dumps.

''A part of the problem is that it's coming down as fast as we can rid of it, Provenzano said. ''People out on the roads are also a problem. The streets are emptier than usual, but not enough.''

With the fresh snow thigh-deep in places, authorities urged people to stay put. And most did.

Many who ventured out got stuck in deep snow banks or slid into ditches. Police dispatchers said emergency phone-lines were ''ringing off the hook.''

For the most part, businesses managed to stay open throughout Anchorage. But numerous workers were calling in to say they couldn't get their cars out of their driveways. And taxicabs were booked for hours.

Barbara Gorder, service manager at a Carrs Safeway store, was surprised that the usual number of people decided to do their grocery shopping despite the harsh weather.

''But I guess it's just like Alaskans to say, 'What the heck,' and go out anyway,'' Gorder said.

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