‘Pandemic of snow’ in Anchorage sets a record for the earliest arrival of 100 inches of snow

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Even by Alaska standards, there’s a lot of snow this winter.

So much snow has fallen — so far, more than 8.5 feet— that roofs on commercial buildings are collapsing around Anchorage and officials are urging residents to break out their shovels to avoid a similar fate at home. Over the weekend, there was nearly 16 more inches of snowfall, pushing Alaska’s largest city past the 100-inch mark earlier than at any other time in its history.

The city is well on track to break its all-time record of 134.5 inches.

Now, even winter-savvy Anchorage residents are getting fed up with the snow-filled streets and sidewalks, constant shoveling and six days of pandemic-era remote learning. It’s already in the record books with this year’s snowfall, at eighth snowiest with a lot of time left this season.

“It’s miserable,” said Tamera Flores, an elementary school teacher shoveling her driveway on Monday, as the snow pile towered over her head. “It’s a pandemic of snow.”

Last year, 107.9 inches fell on Anchorage, making this only the second time the city has had back-to-back years of 100-plus inches of snow since the winters of 1954-55 and 1955-56.

This year, the roofs of three commercial structures collapsed under loads of heavy snow. Last year, 16 buildings had roofs collapse with one person killed at a gym.

The city last week issued guidance urging people to remove snow from their home roofs. Officials said there were snow loads of more than 30 pounds per square foot.

“That is a lot of weight,” the notice said. It gave the example of a home with 1,500 square feet of roof with 30 pounds per square foot of snow, which would be supporting about 45,000 pounds, or “about 8 full size light duty pickup trucks.”

Since it’s so early in the season, people should think about removing the snow, especially if there are signs of structural distress. These include a sagging roof; creaking, popping, cracking or other strange noises coming from the roof, which can indicate its under stress from the snow; or sticking or jammed doors and windows, a sign the snow might be deforming the structure of the house.

Signs have popped up all over town from companies advertising services to remove the snow from roofs.

Some fun has come from a whole lot of snow.

The deluge of snowfall this year prompted one Anchorage homeowner to erect a three-tiered snowman standing over 20-feet-tall. Snowzilla, as it’s named, has drawn people to snap photos.

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Last week, Anchorage had below zero temperatures overnight for seven days, and it only snowed after it warmed up Sunday.

But Anchorage residents may not be able to hold on to the old adage that it’s too cold to snow.

Sunday’s storm was the first time since 1916 that over an inch of snow fell in Anchorage when temperatures were 2 degrees or colder, said Kenna Mitchell, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

And a return to bitter cold is likely what’s on tap later this week. An upper level high pressure system could move back in, dropping temperatures back to below zero at night, possible into the minus 10s.

“This winter is definitely rough, but us Alaskans are definitely built different,” resident Damon Fitts said as he shoveled the driveway at his residence.

“We can handle 100 inches of snow and still make it to work on time,” he said. “We can put up with a lot.”

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