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Major winter storm brings varied weather conditions to Southcentral

Published: Dec. 5, 2021 at 8:41 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Warming temperatures, gusty winds, areas of snow and blowing snow, even rainfall, Southcentral, Alaska seems to have it all as a major winter storm begins to move through the region.

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport started at 9 degrees at midnight Sunday, but by 7 p.m. temperatures had warmed considerably, to 35 degrees. That’s a 26 degree climb in 19 hours. The big warming trend is thanks to southerly winds ahead of an intense winter storm that is making its way across the state. These winds, which have already gusted as high as 38 mph at the airport, are transporting warmer air off the Gulf of Alaska and Pacific Ocean. Additionally, the winds are downsloping off the Chugach mountains, which compresses, and thus, further warms the air.

Another side effect of the downslope is a drying component. This is why the Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna Borough have not received much, if any, snowfall as the first round of moisture moves into Southcentral on Sunday. With temperatures now in the middle 30s, any moisture that does make it to the ground, could very well fall as rain, rather than snow. This could still cause extra slippery travel conditions as the road surfaces themselves remain well below freezing, so still plan on extra travel time and braking distance. It appears that these same areas will stay mostly dry Monday morning through the afternoon, as a new low pressure center forms near Kodiak and moves toward Prince William Sound. As upper-level dynamics move in behind the storm Monday night, colder air and snow is likely to move back into the Anchorage metro, perhaps accumulating a couple of inches before ending Tuesday morning.

The heaviest snows are still likely to occur in the higher elevations of the southeastern Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound (Moose Pass, Whittier, Valdez, Cordorva). This will add to an already very deep snowpack and “considerable” avalanche risk. The same storm system will spread snow and some wind into Southeast late Monday, but here too, snow will change to rain on Tuesday as a surge of warmer air moves off the Pacific Ocean.

Because the storm is so large and intense, numerous weather alerts are in effect all across the state. For the latest watch, warning, or advisory information for your area, please continue to check back in with Alaska’s Weather Source. Stay safe and have a great week.

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