JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Residents of Alaska’s capital were digging out Wednesday after back-to-back winter storms brought the city’s snowfall totals for the month to near-record levels, leaving some parked cars buried with just side-view mirrors or windshield wipers poking out of the white stuff.
So far this month, 69.2 inches (175 centimeters) of snow have been recorded at the Juneau airport. The record for January was set in 2009 at 75.2 inches (191 centimeters), said Nathan Compton, a National Weather Service meteorologist. Records date to 1936.
Much of the snow so far this year has come from two storms lasting for days. One storm hit at mid-month and the other began this past weekend.
City offices were closed Monday and Tuesday and closed to in-person business Wednesday as officials urged residents to avoid non-essential travel. Schools went to remote learning.
Avalanche risk was high, with avalanches reported Wednesday near downtown, including on Basin Road, a popular access point for trails. But the city said there were no reports of damage.
The road, which runs past Dave Harris' home, was closed Wednesday, and crackling could be heard on nearby Mount Juneau. Harris, who was shoveling a snow berm, said he feels safe where he's located. “However, you go up around the corner a little bit, different story,” he said.
Juneau can feel gray in the winter, but Harris said the snow makes everything bright. He said he put on sunglasses when he came out to shovel “because my eyes were hurting.”
Snow piles made Juneau's narrow downtown streets feel even tighter. The city said Wednesday that a break in the weather would allow crews to clear more streets and move snow from roads and sidewalks.
The forecast calls for a shift to rain this week and temperatures climbing into the 40s (4 Celsius). Already Wednesday, some streets and sidewalks were turning to a sloppy mess. The average high for January is about 29 degrees (-1.6 Celsius), Compton said.
The snow has been a welcome sight for Eaglecrest Ski Area on Douglas Island, across the Gastineau Channel from mainland Juneau. About three weeks before the first storm, “we were struggling to have enough snow to keep the lifts open, and we were making snow ... and then it just hasn't stopped snowing since,” said Dave Scanlan, the ski area's general manager.
He said crews worked on avalanche control Wednesday before scheduled lift openings for the day.
“Juneau is a pretty die-hard ski town,” he said. “The skiers usually turn out even when the snow is a little lackluster. But when it is snowing in town, boy, they do come out in droves. And business levels have been really good so we're quite thankful for that.”
Juneau isn't alone in grappling with snow this season.
Anchorage, Alaska's largest city about 580 air miles (933 kilometers) northwest of Juneau, saw a deluge of snow earlier this season before hitting a dry spell with temperatures that have plummeted to below zero at night.
One Anchorage homeowner built a three-tiered snowman that stands over 20 feet (6 meters) tall. The creation, dubbed Snowzilla, is a popular destination for people to snap photos of their children or pets with the giant snowman as the backdrop.
Associated Press reporter Mark Thiessen contributed from Anchorage.