It’s been a beastly win­ter, but some root for record

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY RACHEL D’ORO

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA | A near-record snow­fall this win­ter has buried Anchorage neigh­bor­hoods, turn­ing streets into snow-walled canyons and even col­laps­ing some roofs.

But some res­i­dents are hop­ing for more, at least an­other 3.3 inches. Then they could say they made it through the win­ter when the nearly 60-year record of 132.6 inches was bro­ken.

“I want it de­stroyed,” res­i­dent Melissa Blair said. “I want to see an­other foot and knock that record out of the park.”

Even by Alaska stan­dards, this win­ter is un­usual for the hardy res­i­dents of the state’s largest city. But ex­treme weather isn’t af­fect­ing just Alaska; it also has hit the Lower 48.

Twice the nor­mal num­ber of tor­na­does have been re­ported in the first three months of 2012, and 36 states set daily high tem­per­a­ture records Thurs­day. The Lower 48 had its fourth-warm­est win­ter on record, while Alaska had its cold­est Jan­uary on record.

Nearly 11 feet of snow has fallen on Anchorage this win­ter, forc­ing the city to haul away at least 250,000 tons of snow — or about 500 mil­lion pounds — to its six snow dis­posal sites.

The sites are close to over­flow­ing. State and city crews are work­ing around-the-clock to clear al­most 2,500 miles of roads.

City street main­te­nance su­per­in­ten­dent Dan Southard said the 125,000 truck­loads of snow hauled by city crews would stack up to al­most 1,200 feet if they were dumped onto a foot­ball field sur­rounded by walls.

That’s not even count­ing the loads that state crews put into dis­posal.

“It’s an enor­mous task,” Mr. Southard said of this win­ter’s chal­lenges.

This win­ter is just fine with Kenny Withrow, owner of Pop­eye’s Ser­vices, a snow-clear­ing out­fit. He has been work­ing well into the night, clear­ing drive­ways and park­ing lots and charg­ing $350 to $1,200 for each roof-clear­ing job.

Last year, he cleared maybe five roofs. This year, he has done as many as 50, and the phone calls from wor­ried res­i­dents keep com­ing. Mr. Withrow said he en­joys the snow be­cause of its beauty and the snow­mo­bil­ing ad­ven­tures it makes pos­si­ble.

He does won­der whether it’s ever go­ing to end, though. Still, he is root­ing for more — there’s that record to break.

“We’re so close,” he said. “We might as well just get it done.”

The city has re­ceived 129.4 inches of snow this win­ter, com­pared with the his­tor­i­cal av­er­age of 69.5 inches. No more is ex­pected in the com­ing days, but snow can typ­i­cally fall well into April, which av­er­ages 4 inches.

Na­tional Weather Ser­vice me­te­o­rol­o­gist Dave Strick­land said it’s hard to pre­dict whether the city will win the big-snow crown.

“Bring it on,” said Mr. Strick­land, an en­thu­si­as­tic out­doors­man. “We could break the record ev­ery year and I’d be happy. But there prob­a­bly would be a lot of un­happy peo­ple.”

Count Nick Wieder­holt among them. He said he is sick of snow and cold and can’t wait for the long, warm days of sum­mer. But first, he is brac­ing for the mess ahead when the snow melts.

“I al­ways say I’ll sur­vive win­ter if I can get a good sum­mer,” he said.


A moose calf takes in the view af­ter mak­ing use of a snowy en­trance ramp onto a roof that was cleared by an Anchorage, Alaska, res­i­dent.

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