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Alaska buried in snow, hit with rain and worsening conditions

January 11, 2012 | 12:41 pm

 

Alaska, already buried in snow that has closed schools and roads and threatened avalanches in some areas, is now being pounded by rain.

The National Weather Service forecast of fierce winds with gusts up to 55 mph, rain Wednesday and then more snow, could worsen conditions. Rain can often be a problem because it is heavier and can freeze, hardening snow and becoming even more of a threat to structures.

The hardest hit area is the southeast section of the state, including Cordova, a fishing community of 2,200 described on its website as being in a “Snowpocalypse” after receiving more than 176 inches of snow, more than 14.5 feet, since Nov. 1.

Rain and snow are forecast throughout the rest of the week. Schools are closed for the week and the city’s website notes that no special activities or sporting events are scheduled. There is even a caution to keep children clear of all snow piles, because they are too dangerous.

More than four dozen National Guard troops are helping with the cleanup and a Red Cross shelter has been established. Avalanche conditions were described as extreme and roads were blocked in various places.

Avalanches along the Seward Highway closed the only route south out of Alaska's largest city, cutting off Anchorage from other neighborhoods.

Forecasters warned that a winter advisory in the Anchorage area would be in effect from Wednesday evening through at least Thursday night, with predictions of snow from 9 inches to 18 inches.

A winter weather advisory means “periods of snow will cause primary travel difficulties,” the service said. “Be prepared for snow-covered roads and limited visibilities ... and use caution while driving,” it said.

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 --Michael Muskal

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