Second winter: Anchorage gets up to 18 inches of fresh snow


ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Residents in some parts of Alaska’s largest city woke Thursday to a surprise: up to 18 new inches of snow.

The storm, however, caused few headaches in Anchorage.

“Luckily, we’re pretty familiar with big snowstorms,” said Chelsea Ward-Waller, a special assistant to the acting mayor.

The snowfall didn’t prevent people from getting COVID-19 vaccinations in Anchorage, but a free COVID-19 testing site in suburban Eagle River had to be closed so the parking lot could be plowed.

The state, however, closed all Division of Motor Vehicle offices throughout southcentral Alaska on Thursday because of the widespread storm.

Anchorage police say compared to March 4, there were more than twice the number of vehicles in distress. However, there were fewer accidents and fewer people sustaining non-life threatening injuries, department spokesman MJ Thim said.

This storm was unusual in that east Anchorage, or the side of town closest to the Chugach Mountains, got hammered while the west side, or closet to the ocean, recorded only about 3 inches of snow, said Michael Kutz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Anchorage.

“I live on the east side of town, and I had 16 inches of snow on the ground when I woke up this morning,” Kutz said.

“That’s where we get the mix of the snow to come over the top and dumps all over us,” he said. Snowfalls varied, from 15 inches or 16 inches in east Anchorage to about 18 inches on the Anchorage Hillside.

Judi Westfall had just returned to Anchorage from Sedona, Arizona, where she thought she was going to escape a forecast of snow in the high desert city.

“It was snowing when I got home last night, but I didn’t expect it to be over a foot of snow today so a little bit of a shocker for us,” she said while taking a break from shoveling at her East Anchorage home.

She was taking care of the first layer of snow because it was too tall for their snowblower, being operated by her husband, Dirk.

An Alaska resident since 1992, she said she’s accustomed to these late season storms, which she said some call “second winter.”

Yet, with blue skies last week and increased daylight returning to Alaska, she said you start thinking maybe winter is actually over — even though you know another storm is probably coming.

“And when it happens, it is demoralizing because I did, I felt really sad when I saw all this today,” she said.

It may not have felt like it to anyone shoveling, but Anchorage is actually below the average snowfall amount so far this year. Normal seasonal snowfall for March 11 is 64 inches, but only 62.5 inches have fallen so far this year.

And this storm won’t help increase the total since the city’s official recording station is at the airport, on the west side town, which was spared deep snow.

Associated Press journalist Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska, contributed to this report.

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