Clearing skies appeared over the Gastineau Channel late in the afternoon on Tuesday, Dec. 21, after a quick-moving snowstorm dumped up to 11 inches of snow across the City and Borough of Juneau. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

Heavy snow means white Christmas in Juneau

Cold temperatures on the way

It looks like Juneau is in for a white Christmas.

“After today’s snow, it’s almost a certainty,” said Cody Moore, meteorologist, at the National Weather Service in Juneau, in a Tuesday afternoon phone interview.

Moore said up to 11 inches of snow fell on parts of the capital city Tuesday, adding to the several feet of snow already on the ground from storms earlier this season.

Snow falls were heaviest in Douglas with up to 11 inches and lightest in the Mendenhall Valley, where about 6.5 inches of snow accumulated.

[Days will start getting longer]

As evening fell, Moore said snow was moving out of the area and clouds were breaking up. He said the storm system would move out of the panhandle entirely late Tuesday evening.

Moore said cold temperatures will settle in for the rest of the week, ensuring that snow piles will remain for at least the next 10 days.

“We have a pretty good dry period setting up,” Moore said. “We have a small system on Thursday that could bring some flurries, and then we dry out again through the weekend. We remain dry and much colder.”

Moore said residents can expect widespread lows below zero this weekend, which are the coldest temperatures of the season so far.

“There’s a strong tilt to below normal temperatures for the next 8 to 14 days. The colder and drier weather does look like it will stick around for a while,” Moore said.

Not quite record-breaking

Moore said it’s too soon to tell if Juneau could break any snowfall records this season.

He said that as of Dec. 20, snowfall at the airport is in 9th place for the snowiest winter, with 49.7 inches of snow recorded before Tuesday’s storm.

However, at the Mendenhall Valley-based NWS office, where records have only been kept for about 20 years, residents are on track to see the second-snowiest early winter season since record-keeping efforts started, Moore said.

“For the back of the valley, we’ve got 70.4 inches. Even if we add on 6 inches of snow from today, that’s second place,” Moore said.

He said that during the winter of 2006 and 2007, 88.7 inches of snow had fallen by Dec. 20, compared to 77 inches so far this season.

[Snow many issues]

Travel headaches

The frequent and early snowfalls have presented challenges for the city’s snow removal crews.

Katie Koester, director of the CBJ Engineering and Public Works Department, told members of the Public Works and Facilities Committee Monday that several factors make snow removal challenging.

She cited smaller crews compared to ten years ago due to budget cuts and heavy snow on consecutive days as some of the city’s challenges.

• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

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