Heavy snow is expected in Southeast Alaska through Saturday according to the National Weather Service, which Wednesday issued a winter storm watch for as far north as Yakutat and as far south as Hyder.
Total snow accumulation is expected to be five to 12 inches on Thursday and eight to 16 inches on Friday, according to the notice, with snow continuing into Saturday and gusts of up to 35 mph.
“Travel could be very difficult due to hazardous conditions,” NWS said in the storm watch notice. “Heavy snow could be very difficult to manage.”
The storm watch was is in effect from Thursday morning to late Friday night, the weather service said.
Multiple storms will impact the region through the early weekend and possibly into Saturday, NWS said, and specific snow totals will be dependent on factors such as wind and temperature. A transition to rain is possible for Juneau and the Icy Strait Corridor Saturday, according to NWS.
Wednesday’s snow was not the system the storm watch was issued for, said Kimberly Vaughan, a forecaster in the NWS Juneau office. There’s a second system currently over the Gulf of Alaska, Vaughan said, expected to arrive Thursday morning. It could bring two feet of snow in two days.
But there’s also a lot of air moving around, and where that air moves — and when — will affect what kind of snow the region gets, Vaughan said. Warm air could potentially move into the Juneau area and turn snow into rain, she said, and the amount of snowfall is likely to make travel difficult.
“There’s certainly some uncertainty to this,” Vaughan said. “If that warm air pushes in sooner than expected, those snow amounts could change into rain.”
Snowfall at the Juneau airport for Dec. 1-15 this year has been 4.7 inches, below the average of 7.5 inches, Vaughan said. But while snowfall has been lower, rain during the same time period this year set a new record at 10.23 inches, well above the 3.02 average, she said. This year Juneau has received 75.12 inches of rain, above the 59.45 inch average but below the record of 83 inches, according to Vaughan. The weather service tracks snowfall by winter season according to Vaughan and begins measuring snowfall July 1. This year snowfall at the Juneau airport is average, 20.2 inches this season, just below the 20.5 inch average and well below the 1975 record of 86.4 inches.
The City and Borough of Juneau urged boat owners to check their vessels to prevent sinking due to excess snow accumulation, which CBJ Habormaster Matthew Creswell said could be up to 28 inches Friday and Saturday. Boat owners are urged to ensure mooring lines are secure, pumps are functional and that vessels are not accumulating excess snow or rainwater.
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