The roof of a building bears the weight of multiple feet of snow following two storms during the past two weeks that have dumped more than 60 inches of snow on some parts of Juneau. (Capital City Fire/Rescue photo)

The roof of a building bears the weight of multiple feet of snow following two storms during the past two weeks that have dumped more than 60 inches of snow on some parts of Juneau. (Capital City Fire/Rescue photo)

Structures collapse under snow weight, avalanches triggered downtown as storm nears end

Warnings issued for avalanche zones, buildings under heavy weight loads and travel on icy roads.

This is a developing story.

The snow is finally ending, but the threat to buildings and residents remains high as at least one commercial structure has collapsed due to the weight of snow accumulation since Sunday, and there is a strong likelihood of avalanches that could be “very large to nearing historic,” officials said Wednesday.

Avalanches were reported Wednesday morning on Basin Road and above Behrends Avenue, according to an announcement from the City and Borough of Juneau at about 10:30 a.m.

“No damage or injuries have been reported at this time,” the notice states. “Basin Road is closed at the 8th Street intersection. Please avoid the avalanche area to ensure everyone’s safety and allow first responders to work smoothly. Residents and homeowners are encouraged to stay alert to their surroundings and to current weather conditions. In the event of an emergency, call 911 immediately.”

The notice urges residents to avoid avalanche paths during the next 48 hours as defined in the city’s current avalanche zone maps, available at the city’s website.

Thane Road, which has been closed overnight the past two days due to avalanche exposure, is scheduled to remain closed until at least midday Thursday when hazard reduction and debris removal work is scheduled, according to the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

“The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) will be conducting Avalanche Hazard Reduction above Thane Road on Thursday, January 25th at 11 am (weather dependant),” a DOT announcement states.

The storm — along with one that dumped a similar amount of snow on Juneau a week ago — has also sunk boats and boat shelters, along with causing other structural damage.

“There has been one commercial structure that collapsed yesterday and two porches already this morning,” Capital City Fire/Rescue announced in a post on its Facebook page at about 10 a.m. Wednesday. “Be sure to know the exits out of your home. Snow may block one completely. Snow is sliding in big blocks and can cause injury if you are in its path. CCFR is trying to help people where we can, we just don’t have the resources to do a lot of snow removal.”

The storm that began Sunday dumped more than 30 inches of snow at the National Weather Service Juneau station near the Mendenhall Glacier, according to that office. It follows a storm the previous weekend that left more than 33 inches of snow at the weather station.

“As of midnight, Juneau currently sits tied with 1982 at the number two spot for highest snowfall for the month of January with 69.2 inches,” the station announced in a Facebook post Wednesday morning. “Juneau would need another 6.1 inches to break the 2009 record for highest snowfall accumulation for January.”

A winter weather advisory remains in effect until noon Wednesday since some areas are still receiving snow, although most parts of the city are now experiencing a mix of snow and freezing rain, according to NWS Juneau. That is prompting travel warnings from city and state agencies warning that both streets and sidewalks are likely to be icy.

“While Juneau snowfall broke records over the weekend, our maintenance and operations crew have continued clearing roads in their valiant fight against the relentless forces of nature,” a DOT announcement states. “With temperatures rising and rain on the way, please drive safely and don’t crowd the plow.”

An avalanche advisory issued by the city Wednesday morning states increasing temperatures will increase the already high level of risk.

“With the great volumes of snow over the last few days depending on how large of a starting zone releases these avalanches could be VERY LARGE to nearing historic,” Tom Mattice, the city’s avalanche forecaster, wrote in the alert.

Several natural avalanches have occurred during the past few days, he stated. Additional large avalanches are likely during the next 24 to 36 hours and may be sizable enough to reach inhabited parts of town.

City facilities and schools are closed to in-person activities Wednesday, but are conducting business and classes remotely.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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