What does low snow fall mean for Anchorage roads?

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We live in Anchorage, Alaska so we are covered in snow during the winter, right?  Most winters the answer would be, “yes” but this winter that is not the case. Anchorage has had one of the lowest snowfalls on record this year.

This season, Anchorage received just under 25 inches of snow making it one of the three least-snowy seasons to date since 1952. You would think that having a low snowfall would be a good thing for many people working, living, and visiting Anchorage; however, that is not always the case.


Lack of Snowfall on Anchorage Roads

People who live in Anchorage and throughout Alaska know how to drive in the snow. They grew up dealing with snow on the roads; however, ice is another matter entirely. Earlier this year, a blanket of ice covered the roads in Anchorage causing dozens of car accidents in a matter of 48 hours.  On New Year’s Day, 34 motor vehicle accidents were reported with more than 36 drivers stranded. The following day, 22 crashes were reported and another 30 vehicles were in distress due to the weather.

Ice skaters were warned to stay away from lakes and ponds such as Westchester Lagoon and Cuddy Park, which are usually full of ice skaters enjoying the frozen surfaces, due to standing water on top of the ice. Apparently the skating conditions on side roads were better than on lakes according to Brian Brettschneider, a climate researching at the University of Alaska Anchorage, who strapped on a pair of skates to check out road conditions.

Icy and wet roads resulted in much worse driving conditions, especially on side roads. With temperatures in the 30s or low 40s you would assume roads would just be wet; however, the cold ground causes the light rain to freeze making roads extremely dangerous due to black ice. While it may be possible to gain some traction on snowy roads with the property tires and chains, driving on icy roads is almost impossible.

If you are driving on Anchorage’s icy roads, follow these icy road driving tips to avoid an accident on icy roads.

  • Drive slowly to allow for changing road conditions.
  • Exercise caution when stopping or going up a hill because you will not be able to regain traction and slow down look for safe escape options to shoulders on road, ditch or other safe options.
  • Do not stop at all if you can avoid it.
  • Increase the distance between you and the vehicles in front of you. Braking on icy surfaces requires much more distance.
  • Keep windows and mirrors clear of ice.
  • Make smooth, careful turning movements. Avoid sliding by anticipating lane changes, curves, and turns so that you can ease into the turn. Abrupt changes can cause you to skid.
  • If your vehicle begins to skid, steer into the direction your car is sliding until you can gain control again.
  • Decelerate and accelerate slowly. You can gain more traction and avoid sliding when you apply the gas slowly. Applying the brakes suddenly typically results in sliding and skidding.
  • Never use your cruise control.
  • Remember bridges, ramps, and overpasses ice before roads – use extra caution when approaching these surfaces.
  • If unable to stop and approaching intersection lay on your horn to alert/warn other roadway users (drivers and pedestrians) of your emergency situation.
  • Remain focused and alert at all times.
  • Stay home if possible – the best way to avoid an accident on icy roads is to stay in until the ice melts off roads.


Roads Are Not The Only Issue Residents of Anchorage and Other Parts of Alaska Face Due to Low Snowfall

The low snowfall this season has had a negative impact on other things in Anchorage and throughout Alaska.  This year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race faced another year of low snowfall to deal with as they contemplated how to handle the situation. The lack of snowfall north of Anchorage forced organizers to move the starting point for the race last year. This year, organizers had to arrange for 300 cubic yards of snow to be delivered in seven rail cars via the Alaska Railroad to Anchorage. Iditarod CEO, Stan Hooley, said organizers were contemplating several changes due to the warm weather.

The lack of snow also impacted many Anchorage businesses that rely on the “bad weather” to boost their income. The warmer weather not only resulted in a lack of snow, it reduced business for several companies throughout Anchorage. The cold weather has resulted in a decrease in business for Tudor Auto & Truck Repair in Anchorage. Manager Joe Cyr said the lack of cold weather reduced the number of vehicle repairs and necessary maintenance commonly associated with colder conditions. According to Matanuska Towing and Recovery in Palmer, the company has not had to rescue as many people from snowy ditches or jump-start as many vehicles this season due to dead batteries.

Most businesses are trying to make the best of the warmer weather by replacing some of their cold weather services with other types of services.  Bigfoot Pumping and Thawing is not thawing as many frozen water lines and frozen sewer lines due to the warmer weather. However, the company is focusing more on septic system pumping and other services.

Retailers are also “feeling” the effects of the warmer weather. Some businesses are experiencing an increase in sales from some items while other items are remaining on the shelves. For example, sales for supplies that deal with icy conditions such as ice cleats are increasing while sales for snowshoes, skis, and other snow-related items are decreasing.

Retailers are reporting increases in the sale of running shoes and fat-tire bikes as cross-country skiers are searching for alternative forms of out-door recreation and exercise. The ice on trails has definitely helped increase the sale of studded bicycles tires as cyclists want to continue to ride but must now deal with ice instead of snow.


Have You Been Injured In a Motor Vehicle Accident?

The personal injury attorneys of Kelley & Canterbury, L.L.C. hope you and your family stay safe while traveling our roads and highways. Unfortunately, accidents do happen and people are injured. If you or a loved one has been injured in an Anchorage car crash, contact our accident attorneys by calling (907) 276-8185 or toll free at 1 (888) 454-8185.  We are available 24/7 to take your call.

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About Chris Canterbury

At Kelley & Canterbury LLC, Chris has helped Alaskans successfully navigate their personal injury cases for over 15 years. When not at work, Chris enjoys spending time with his family, playing hockey, and working on his family's log cabin home in Eagle River. Chris Canterbury's Google+ Profile

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