Heavy snow over the weekend was followed by rising temperatures and steady rain. This led to icy conditions and added weight to snow imperiling decks, roofs and vessels in the capital city. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Heavy snow over the weekend was followed by rising temperatures and steady rain. This led to icy conditions and added weight to snow imperiling decks, roofs and vessels in the capital city. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Meltdown: Heavy snow chased by rain prompts closures, concerns

Concern builds as rain increases weight of snow pack

This article has been updated to include additional information.

Heavy snow followed by rain continues to make travel difficult, prompt closures across the City and Borough of Juneau and lead to flooding concerns.

Forecasters expect the stormy trend to continue, and officials announced that schools would remain closed on Tuesday due to road conditions and treacherous sidewalks.

On Monday morning, forecasters at the Mendenhall Valley-based national weather service office reported 42 inches of snow on the ground.

Late Monday afternoon, the snowpack had shrunk to 38 inches according to Nicole Ferrin, a senior meteorologist at the Juneau office. She said that rain on Monday and rising temperatures led to compacting snow and a shrinking pile.

She said that rain falling on the hard snowpack snow contributes to icy conditions throughout the Borough.

Earlier on Monday, Greg Spann, a Juneau-based NWS meteorologist, said a “good amount of rain” will likely fall on the capital city into the middle of next week.

“It’s going to take a while for the snow to leave. That rain will soak in and make the snow heavier,” Spann said in a phone interview Monday morning.

Ferrin suggested residents work to “mitigate drainage” from driveways as the snow melts and city officials are urging residents to find and clear storm drains to ease flooding potential.

Ferrin said the Juneau International Airport temperature was holding steady at 37 degrees Monday afternoon with colder spots near the back of the Mendenhall Valley.

Spann said the warmer temperatures will make it a little easier to melt snow and ice on driveways.

“We are at a temperature where salt will help melt ice,” Spann said, adding that the frigid temperatures Juneau experienced for the first part of the storm limit the effectiveness of salt and other agents often used to melt snow and ice.

Clearing the streets

City officials said efforts to clear CBJ’s streets and drains are ongoing.

“Snow removal is looking ok,” said Katie Koester, director of the CBJ Engineering and Public Works Department, in a Monday afternoon email.

She said that crews are working on removing snow in the Mendenhall Valley and plowing the cross streets downtown and on Douglas, many of which could not be plowed as the snow fell over the weekend.

Based on the volume of snow, Koester said that public works employees are using a team approach to snow removal and enlisting residents in their efforts to keep drains clear to allow melting snow to move off city streets.

“The public has been a tremendous help in this regard helping keep area drains open and have kept water moving in key locations,” she said.

Koester said CBJ would be enlisting Parks and Recreation employees to clear snow from downtown sidewalks and Americans with Disabilities Act ramps on Tuesday so that snow plowing crews can concentrate on roads.

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Lots of snow leads to dumping

In advance of the weekend’s storm, city crews focused on clearing snow off city streets and moving it to storage so that crews could move new snow off of roadways.

As the snow depot at Thane filled quickly last week, CBJ employees pushed some snow from the storage location over the bank on Tuesday evening. Koester said CBJ was able to stop pushing snow over the bank on Thursday.

Koester said Docks and Harbors officials were forced to do the same. She said both actions were promptly reported to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

“Even though it was not required, we did sample the snow and send it to be tested for PH and turbidity,” Koester told the Empire in an email. “DEC’s greatest concern is litter.”

Harbor Master Matt Creswell said the “extreme amount of snow” prompted the action at the harbors.

“Docks and Harbors received authorization from AKDEC to push snow into the water from the parking lots at Aurora and Harris Harbors,” Creswell said Monday afternoon in an email to the Empire.

“We generally have room to store our snow and not put it in the water but due to the extreme amount of snow we have been getting, we asked for and received permission to dump under the emergency conditions authorization.”

Koester said she hopes the rain and warmer temperatures will free up space in the storage facility.

“If we get a major dump we may have to revisit it,” she said.

Heavy snow over the weekend was followed by rising temperatures and steady rain. This led to icy conditions and added weight to snow imperiling decks, roofs and vessels in the capital city. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Heavy snow over the weekend was followed by rising temperatures and steady rain. This led to icy conditions and added weight to snow imperiling decks, roofs and vessels in the capital city. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Schools to close for a second day

Falling snow followed by rising temperatures and steady rain prompted officials to cancel school for a second day.

On Monday afternoon, district officials alerted parents to the closure via a text message.

According to the text, all classes, activities, and after-school programs, including RALLY, are canceled for Tuesday, Jan. 11. In addition, Riverbend School will remain closed on Wednesday, Jan. 12, due to a burst pipe in the building.

Kristin Bartlett, chief of staff at the district, said that the cancellations are due to “hazardous road and sidewalk conditions.”

Bartlett said school roofs are holding up as the snow melts and the rain falls. However, she said maintenance crews are closely watching the roof at Riverbend School, because of known condition issues with the building’s roof.

Fred Meyer remains closed

On Sunday, store employees announced that Fred Meyer would be closed due to hazardous conditions in a social media post. A time frame for reopening was not included in the post. Calls to the store went unanswered at 9 a.m. Monday. Texts to pharmacy customers advised that the pharmacy is closed due to an “emergency situation.”

The text read, “we are working to restore operations as soon as possible.”

On Monday, calls and emails to the store’s Oregon-based corporate office were not immediately returned.

In a Monday morning Zoom meeting with Juneau’s legislative delegation, Robert Barr, CBJ deputy city manager, said that the Fred Meyer corporate office is sending a crew to evaluate the roof. Barr said that crews were having trouble keeping up with snow removal. Barr said that their “concerns have not been realized as of Monday morning.”

Safeway remained open for business and reported that the roof of the building looked good.

Brian Hubbard, assistant store director at Safeway in the Mendenhall Valley, said the store is open and operating. He said that a handful of staff members were advised not to travel to the store due to weather conditions.

A mound of a snow obscures a “student drop off” sign near Sít’ Eetí Shaanàx-Glacier Valley School. School officials announced on Monday that classes were canceled for Tuesday due to weather. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

A mound of a snow obscures a “student drop off” sign near Sít’ Eetí Shaanàx-Glacier Valley School. School officials announced on Monday that classes were canceled for Tuesday due to weather. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Other closures

In addition, some flat-roofed office buildings around the city — including the Jordan Creek Center, which houses the Empire’s offices — asked people to hold off on coming into the office while the roofs are evaluated.

Poor weather and icy roads led Alaska Waste to suspend garbage collection on Monday. Customers missed will receive garbage collection services on Saturday, Jan. 15.

All executive office branches in Juneau were closed on Monday. Officials urged telework and said that employees involved in public safety, corrections and the Pioneer Homes should report to work. No word on operational status for Tuesday was available Monday afternoon.

Avalanche concerns grow

Thane Road reopened Monday morning, after closing on Sunday because of the risk of avalanche, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities announced.

According to the CBJ’s website, the urban avalanche advisory level has been updated to “4-High.”

The Monday morning update reads, “with a great deal of warming during yesterday’s storm event, and with additional warming and precipitation in the forecast today avalanche danger remains HIGH today. I assume we had a few avalanches around the region yesterday. We hope to see some evidence of that today to get a better idea of where instability may still exist. But if a slope has not slid, its stability will remain questionable today with additional precipitation and warming on top of the upside-down snowpack currently in place.”

The post urges residents to avoid the Flume Trail and not to walk in the gated areas above the Behrends neighborhood.

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

Oliver Zigmund, 16, clears snow from a rooftop on Douglas on Jan. 9. A large snowstorm dumped snow across Juneau. Heavy rain is expected on Monday, adding weight to the snow and likely straining roofs, boats and decks. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

Oliver Zigmund, 16, clears snow from a rooftop on Douglas on Jan. 9. A large snowstorm dumped snow across Juneau. Heavy rain is expected on Monday, adding weight to the snow and likely straining roofs, boats and decks. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

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