Possible Blizzard for Already Snowed-In Alaskans

January 10, 2012; 4:56 PM
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Valdez resident Trish Stowe wrote on Facebook that this picture was taken "b4 the current storm ;) — with Suzanne Lawson."

Serious cold, ice and snow in Alaska is causing some unusual problems in a place known by people in the continental United States for being a snow haven.

The town of Valdez got 66.9 inches of snow between Jan. 1 and 9. That's 99 percent of the town's normal snowfall for the whole month of January. The greatest snow depth was close to 7 feet of snow on Jan. 8. The town has received 18 feet of snow since Dec. 1.

The National Guard headed to Cordova, a fishing town in southeastern Alaska, to dig people out from massive snowfall. Last Friday, snow was as deep as 59 inches or close to 5 feet. The snow depth shrunk to a "meager" 45 inches after a major storm rained on it Saturday and Sunday. The rain falling on top of the snow added to the weight. The heavy, compacted snow stressed roofs, which caused some roof collapses.

Such deep snow is unusual this early in the season and so close to the coast. Despite Alaska's reputation as a snowy place, big storms that hit in the populated areas near the coast usually dump rain, not snow. The mildly warmer temperatures near the coast come from the warming effect of the ocean.

Video of man shoveling out his car in Cordova:

What's next? More snow. . . A lot of it.

Starting Tuesday, a storm will push along the southern coast of Alaska with heavy snow and very high winds. Valdez, already buried under many feet of snow, could get another 1 to 2 feet of snow through Wednesday, with winds gusting up to 60 mph on the nearby coast. The heavy snow coupled with the wind could cause structural damage to buildings in Valdez. The drifting snow can distribute weight unevenly, putting more stress on roofs, especially flat ones.

The storm will change from snow to rain at the coast. In Cordova, it will snow through Tuesday night, with a mix of rain and snow on Wednesday.

Dog in the snow in Valdez, Alaska, northwest of Cordova
Album posted to Facebook by Trish Stowe

6'3" Dana stands in front of the snow pile in Valdez, Alaska, northwest of Cordova
Album posted to Facebook by Trish Stowe

Car in the snow in Cordova
Album posted to Facebook by Rochelle Van Den Broek

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