What a difference a week makes.
Late last week, Alaska’s commissioner of public safety, acknowledging “poor driving conditions ... statewide,” extended the deadline by two weeks for getting studded tires off vehicles.
With daytime high temperatures hovering around 40 degrees for the past few days, turning many rural roads into mud bogs, the extension seems unneeded on the Kenai Peninsula.
Commissioner Walt Monegan, nevertheless, is allowing people to operate vehicles with studded tires until May 15 on roads north of latitude 60 North -- a line that runs across the peninsula from just above Ninilchik to just below Seward -- and until April 29 south of the line.
After those dates, motorists can be issued a correctable offense citation, which carries with it a possible $50 fine. Some local municipalities in the state, such as Anchorage, assess fines differently for keeping studs on too long. If stopped in Anchorage, violators can be fined per wheel.
In a printed statement, Monegan said, “The extension of studded tire use by two weeks should provide all motorists that additional margin of safety on our lingering winter roads.”
Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Leo von Scheben asked that the season be extended following reports that icing conditions persist and are expected to continue beyond the traditional studded tire season, which was scheduled to end April 30 north of 60 North and April 15 south of the line.
Warmer weather resulted in a rush of customers to one central Kenai Peninsula tire shop already.
“I got slammed yesterday,” said Howard Tucker, manager of the Alyeska Tire Warehouse on Poppy Lane off Kalifornsky Beach Road, referring to Monday. On Tuesday, business was back to normal, he said.
Normally, Tucker said it takes between 10 and 15 minutes to change tires on a vehicle. During the rush Monday, customers were required to wait about an hour, he said.
Business was described as “trickling in” at the Johnson’s Tire and Auto Service Center on the Sterling Highway in Soldotna.
“It’s not at full force yet,” said Assistant Manager Chris Manwell on Tuesday.
Right now, before the rush that typically accompanies the arrival of the deadline, Manwell said customers can expect to be in and out in 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
The store is open for extended hours to accommodate studded tire removal work.
Both tire shops are reporting a full inventory of summer street tires for people wishing to put new rubber on their wheels.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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