Winter storm headed for mainland Alaska, hazardous travel and very heavy snow expected

Published: Dec. 20, 2020 at 4:52 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A winter storm is moving through the Bering Sea on Sunday and will impact western areas of mainland Alaska starting early Monday. The storm is expected to move into Southcentral Monday night and could bring very heavy snow, high winds, and hazardous travel conditions.

The higher elevations around Anchorage, Turnagain Arm and Portage Valley are under a High Wind Warning beginning Monday at 9 p.m. with winds out of the east 40 to 60 mph with gusts to 80 mph for the Anchorage Hillside. Turnagain Arm could see winds gusting as high at 100 mph and Portage Valley could see 90 mph gusts. High winds can blow around loose debris and power outages are a risk.

The National Weather Service has put a Winter Storm Watch in place for areas along the Seward Highway, north of Seward including Moose Pass, Turnagain Pass, and Portage Valley. Blizzard conditions are possible as well as very heavy snow. Some mountain passes could see 2 to 5 feet of snow with a snowfall rate of 3 inches per hour possible. The heaviest snow is expected around Turnagain Pass. The snow is expected to turn to rain Tuesday morning around Portage Valley which will end the blizzard conditions.

Travel through these areas might be impossible. Strong winds mean blowing snow could cause sustained whiteout conditions. This is a “watch” which means there are still some question about final snow totals. The storm is expected to move through Monday night into Tuesday night. If you plan to travel along the Seward Highway during the early part of the week, be sure to check the latest weather reports before starting out.

About half of the state will be under some kind of weather alert over the next few days.

Areas around Dillingham and to the north: snow totals of 6 to 9 inches with winds to 40 mph, low visibility, and poor travel conditions.

Southwest Coast: Blizzard conditions with snow from 2 to 7 inches of snow with winds gusting to 50 mph. Blowing and drifting snow will reduce visibilities.

Eastern Norton Sound and Nulato Hills: Mixed precipitation with up to 7 inches of snow and some light glaze. Winds to 65 mph could cause blowing and drifting snow.

St Lawrence Island and Bering Strait Coast: Blizzard conditions with snow totals of 1 to 3 inches and winds to 70 mph which could cause whiteout conditions.

Northwest and northern areas: Watch for wind chills near 50 to 60 below zero. Some of these advisories expire on Monday morning but many will last until Tuesday morning.

Near the Alaska Range: A High Wind Warning is in effect from Monday afternoon until Wednesday afternoon. Watch for winds out of the Southeast 40 to 55 mph with gusts to 75 mph.

Foothills and pass of E. Alaska Range: High Wind Warning starting Monday evening. South winds 40 to 55 mph with gust up to 75 mph expected.

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