Waves pummel Sandy Beach on Douglas on Jan. 3. Avalanche debris from a weekend slide on Thane Road is visible across the Gastineau Channel. The avalanche delayed crews in responding to a power outage further down Thane Road. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire)

New year delivers a cold, snowy week

Falling flakes and temperatures.

This story has been updated to correct a typo.

Hold on to your hat, Juneau.

High winds, heavy snow and plunging temperatures are delivering a three-pronged punch to the City and Borough of Juneau and the panhandle this week.

In addition, authorities confirmed several avalanches over the holiday weekend, including one along Thane Road.

“We saw a great deal of avalanches around the region over the last 30+ hours,” said a post on the CBJ website from Tom Mattice, city emergency program manager.

According to the post, avalanche risk remains at “Level 4, high”, because of “continued outflow winds directly loading our urban avalanche paths.”

According to Greg Spann, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service Office in Juneau, weather stations in West Juneau reported snow totals as high as 19.7 inches. He said strong winds blew the snow around and make it difficult to finalize the tally.

Spann said he expects the winds battering downtown and Douglas to diminish Monday night. But, gusts will continue into the evening.

He noted that storm-force winds are whipping up 15-foot waves in the Lynn Canal.

“It’s going to get colder and colder,” Spann said. “We are expecting sub-zero temperatures. It’s going to feel more like the interior than the panhandle,” Spann said.

Spann said Tuesday’s overnight lows could go as low as 16 degrees below zero.

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“It’s going to be unpleasant,” he said, adding that the city could be flirting with record-low temperatures.

Spann explained that a surge of moisture and entrenched cold air created the right conditions for the storm.

“This is a big system,” he said.

Keeping the lights on

According to Debbie Driscoll, Alaska Electric Light & Power vice president of community affairs, the power stayed on for the duration of the storm, save an hours-long power outage to about 25 customers who live on Thane Road. AEL&P’s social media site also reported a minor outage near Montgomery Street on Sunday morning.

Driscoll said an avalanche on Thane Road slowed response times to the area.

As of 11 a.m. Monday, the lights were back on for most customers on Thane, according to AEL&P’s Facebook page.

“Overall, we had a few calls, but it could have been much worse,” Driscoll told the Empire in a Monday morning interview.

She said that high winds helped remove snow from trees and that the frozen ground all helped.

“Sometimes it’s pure luck,” she said, noting that crews were at the ready to respond to any outages created by the storm.

Driscoll said that with continued high winds in the area, she encourages customers to be prepared with an alternative heat source, extra blankets and flashlights. She encourages people to keep cellphones charged, just in case.

“It’s rare for us not to be able to restore power in a few hours,” she said. “Our repair and restoration time is quite good,” noting that the avalanche on Thane was the factor that prolonged the outage there.

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She said the best way to report an outage is by calling (907) 586-2357.

“It can take a little while to get through as it’s a shared called center,” she said. “But, hang on because calling ensures that a ticket is generated and the outage can’t fall through the cracks.”

She said that comments about outages on social media can be missed due to algorithms that prioritize certain comments over others.

Crews from Alaska Electric Light and Power responded to a power outage on Thane Road on Monday morning. An avalanche blocking the road delayed efforts to restore power to the area, according to officials at the utility. (Download/AEL&P Facebook page)

Crews from Alaska Electric Light and Power responded to a power outage on Thane Road on Monday morning. An avalanche blocking the road delayed efforts to restore power to the area, according to officials at the utility. (Download/AEL&P Facebook page)

Looking forward

Spann said there is an end to the super cold temperatures, but a “possible major event” over the weekend is on the horizon.

He said it’s too early to tell, but Juneau and the panhandle could see “a lot of snow” over this coming weekend. Though, he said it could be a rain event.

“Past that system, fingers crossed, we could see temps above freezing again,” he said. “We are pretty confident that we will have a major event. The question is whether it’s snow or rain.”

Spann advises care when traveling.

“Play it safe, Spann said. “The roads are slick. Be a little more cautious than bold.”

Drip your water

In a Facebook post, the city urged residents to take steps to prevent pipes from freezing. Tips include:

Leave a pencil-thin trickle of water running in the sink to keep water circulating.

— Ensure crawl space vents are closed.

— Ensure pipes are properly insulated.

— Ensure heat tapes are plugged in and functioning.

— Turn off hose bibs, disconnect any hoses, and ensure they are properly insulated.

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

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