Successive snowstorms sometimes mixed with rain along with fluctuating temperatures have combined this week to make driving a bit hazardous on parts of the Kenai Peninsula.
Wednesday, the Alaska Department of Transportation Web site was warning of glaze ice along portions of the Sterling Highway south of Cohoe Loop Road at Milepost 111. Conditions weren't any better on parts of the Seward Highway where several inches of snow were reported on the roadway Wednesday morning.
Responsible for state roadways in the central Kenai Peninsula region roughly between Mile 61 and Mile 111 is the DOT's Soldotna station foreman Brian Gabriel. In an interview Thursday, he noted that whether you were buried in snow or lightly dusted over the past week really depended on where you were.
"It's been kind of hit or miss," he said. "Earlier this week, Homer got hit up to just north of Clam Gulch. We (central peninsula) didn't get as much."
Driving conditions on the Sterling Highway, Spur Highway, and numerous other state-maintained roads have varied through much of December. When temperatures drop significantly, the chilled air tends to freeze-dry the roads and driving conditions generally improve. But when the temperature bumps up and down around freezing, a hazardous glaze of ice can form on the surface, Gabriel said.
The Soldotna station's 11 full-time operators and one electrician, who is also a part-time operator, have been busy putting down a lot of sand over the past several weeks as temperatures have floated around freezing, Gabriel said.
It is important to remember when traveling from one area to another that conditions can change, often quickly, he added, recommending that travelers dial 511 for the latest information about the roads.
He also recommended a Web site, www.wunderground.com, for an animated radar depiction of real-time weather.
An annual wintertime concern is moose on the roads. Accumulating snow often forces the undulates into the highway corridors. But Gabriel said he hasn't seen as many moose on or near the roads as in past years. That could change.
"As the snow gets deeper, the moose use the road corridor and cross back and forth, increasing their chances of getting hit," he said. "The low-light conditions contribute to the hazard."
Angie Richardson, administrative assistant with the Kenai Peninsula Borough Road Service Area, said Seward got six inches on fresh snow Wednesday night and a total of 15 to 20 inches over the last week.
While the city center there is near sea level, many of the subdivisions are at upper levels and prone to accumulations. Richardson said borough contract plow services were out working.
Homer, she said, has gotten about 16 inches of snow, but very little Thursday. All the roads have been plowed and "scarified," roughened by scraping, to reduce slippery conditions. Some roads have become icy due to windy conditions. Sanding will be done as needed, she said.
North Kenai has had 12 inches of snow, but roads there have been plowed. The central peninsula, meanwhile, has been spared the worst of the snow, getting only about four to six inches total.
Hal Spence can be reached at email@example.com.
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