Moisture-laden air coming from the northwest is expected to dump more than a foot of snow on parts of Southeast Alaska, including Juneau, with the heaviest snowfall predicted to hit during the evening of New Year’s Eve. (Screenshot/ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Moisture-laden air coming from the northwest is expected to dump more than a foot of snow on parts of Southeast Alaska, including Juneau, with the heaviest snowfall predicted to hit during the evening of New Year’s Eve. (Screenshot/ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Get ready to ring in the new year with wet, heavy snow

Snow is expected to be heaviest as partygoers would be getting started.

Heavy snow and rising COVID-19 numbers may serve to dampen the enthusiasm of partygoers as Juneau rolls into New Year’s Eve.

The National Weather Service’s Juneau office has issued a winter storm watch beginning Friday morning, with the worst expected to fall that evening, said a meteorologist.

“We have a range of 6-18 inches. Our forecast right now is on the higher end of that,” said NWS Juneau meteorologist Kayla Tinker in a phone interview. “The greatest snowfall rate is expected to be Friday evening, so the public should keep that in mind for New Year’s Eve. It’s expected to be a wetter snow.”

[Snow removal debate sparks a flurry of comments]

A low-pressure system bringing moisture-laden activity into the region is responsible for the warning. Temperatures are expected to drop from around freezing on New Year’s Day to -10 on Sunday night, according to the NWS.

“It will be a heavier snow in terms of shoveling. We will cool down later in the weekend into Monday,” Tinker said. “Be careful, those of you that are driving. If the winds pick up, visibility will drop down. Travel will be very difficult.”

The Juneau Police Department will have an increased presence due to another condition that impairs travel — drinking and driving.

“We have some moderate increase in our staffing for drunk driving patrols,” said Lt. Krag Campbell in a phone interview. “Drive safe. Don’t drink and drive. Give yourself more time to get to your destination.”

Juneau Crimeline is offering doubled rewards for calls that result in the successful apprehension of intoxicated drivers, Campbell said.

“Crimeline is offering double DUI rewards for people who call in drunk drivers. It’s $400 for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day,” Campbell said. “The key is the person does have to be arrested for a drunk driving offense.”

The Safe Ride program will not be operating on New Year’s Eve due to COVID-19 mitigation concerns, said Leeann Thomas, a member of Juneau/Lynn Canal Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association, the organization that sponsors the program.

“Juneau/Lynn Canal hopes everyone will drink responsibly and drive responsibly,” Thomas said. “Plan ahead to make sure you have safe ride home.”

Many bars are offering designated drivers free sodas or mocktails, Thomas said.

While the city’s parking garages will be open for use for all beginning at 4 p.m. on Thursday for the holiday, providing a safe option for leaving vehicles.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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