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Zach Lyons shovels snow off the roof of his home in Anchorage's Spenard neighborhood on Friday, Nov. 10, 2023. Westchester Lagoon is in the background. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
More than a foot of snow — in some areas more than 2 feet — fell across Southcentral Alaska through much of Thursday, causing chaos across the region, including school and highway closures and power outages affecting thousands of Alaskans.
By Friday morning, Anchorage storm totals ranged from about 17 inches at National Weather Service offices near Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport to about 30 inches on the Hillside and just over 3 feet in Girdwood.
More than 12,000 homes and businesses in Anchorage, Mat-Su and on the Kenai Peninsula were without power at some point, and several thousand remained without power as of Friday morning.
Chugach Electric Association reported just before 6 a.m. Friday that they had just under 900 members without power, including about 250 in Hope and nearly as many in the Debarr Road area, as well as other scattered outages.
"Daylight should bring new opportunity to get to Indian, Hope, and parts of the Anchorage Hillside that are difficult to reach," the update said. "Hoping roads are plowed so our crews can get to where they need to be."
Heavy snow loading and unloading from the lines, as well as fallen trees, contributed to the outages, spokeswoman Julie Hasquet said Thursday.
"Often we'll get one outage restored and then another one will trigger a few blocks away or just down the road," Hasquet said. "So it's hard to give an estimate of when everything's going to be restored and for whom. ... The situation is just too dynamic. Until the weather calms down, we don't really get a chance to catch up."
Chugach Electric resoloved much of a larger outage in Girdwood Thursday night while the utility hoped to reach Indian, Hope and Moose Pass on Friday. Some outages can be challenging and time consuming to repair because crews have to patrol the power lines by snowmachine or on snowshoes to locate the source of the problem and fix it, Hasquet said.
Nearly 2,400 homes or businesses were still without power on the Kenai Peninsula by 6 a.m. Friday. after about 1,300 members were restored Thursday night into Friday, according to the Homer Electric Association.
About 100 homes or businesses in the Knik-Goose Bay area near Wasilla were still without power Friday morning, according to the Matanuska Electric Association.
Before the snowfall began to wind down Thursday, giving road-clearing crews a chance to catch up, the deep snow made driving dangerous. On the Kenai Peninsula, the Seward Highway temporarily closed for hours from the Summit Lake area to Moose Pass because it had become impassable. Alaska State Troopers and the state Department of Transportation urged drivers to stay home unless it was an emergency.
The wintry weather and dangerous driving conditions prompted the Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna Borough school districts to shift to remote learning Thursday, and 24 schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District were closed for the day. Friday was a scheduled day off for students in all three school districts, ahead of Veterans Day on Saturday.
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Snow had begun falling Wednesday afternoon across much of Southcentral Alaska. The storm was challenging for meteorologists to predict, in part due to missing data from an out-of-service Doppler radar system on the Kenai, and initial forecasts called for precipitation to shift to rain that evening. But in many areas, it continued on as snow, leading to heavy accumulations that caused widespread disruptions Thursday.
Snow in Whittier and Portage shifted to rain by Thursday, National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Kutz said. In 24 hours, Whittier had received close to 2 inches of rain, he said.
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The storm system moved into Southcentral Alaska on the tail of Anchorage's first major snowfall of the season. The National Weather Service recorded a little over 6 inches of snow in the city by Sunday afternoon, which broke the previous Nov. 5 record of 3.8 inches set in 1964.