Interior communities come together ahead of new round of inclement weather

Combo of ice, rain has proven difficult, even for seasoned Alaskans
Published: Dec. 28, 2021 at 8:48 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Heavy snow and rain, along with drastic swings of cold temperatures over the past few days, have made for challenging conditions in Interior Alaska.

“We recommend that people not travel if they can possibly avoid it,” said Caitlin Frye with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. “Right now, conditions in general in the Fairbanks area, are difficult. So we say travel will be challenging, even if your vehicle is properly equipped for driving.”

The weather in Interior Alaska continues to impact residents there across the board — from road conditions to store closures, power outages and more — but there does appear to be a silver lining, as the community comes together in a time of need.

“It makes it overwhelming,” said Bill Pugh of Delta Junction, who was among those posting on social media this week to assist with plowing driveways and other spaces so that people could at least leave there homes if need be. “I’ve been here for 37 years, and this is the most snow and ice we’ve ever accumulated since I’ve been here.

“I’ve been repeatedly cleaning peoples’ driveways, and my own, too,” he continued, “and it’s just almost impossible to keep up with.”

Along with roads taking on more and more snow, thousands of people were without power at some point over the past few days in the Fairbanks area, as well as communities nearby. An outage map from Golden Valley Electric Association, which serves the region, showed more than 1,300 customers affected as of early Tuesday evening, though that number could be low depending on household residents.

That’s added to challenges, but also caused even more people to step up for their neighbors.

“We’ve seen carloads of people helping push cars in ditches,” said Sen. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks. “We have folks with heavy equipment clearing spaces just so folks can get to work. And I think that’s what community is all about.”

Some towns are facing weather woes as well as direct and detrimental effects from heavy snow and rain. The IGA Food Cache in Delta Junction, for example, saw its roof collapse on Sunday. Its owners posted on social media that they were working toward reopening, or at least an alternative solution for providing an option for groceries to the community.

“It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that we must announce the long-term, temporary closure of the store,” they wrote in part. “Unbelievably, today our roof collapsed from the recent heavy snow and ice fall. At this time we are unable to give any answers on how long the closure will be.

“Unfortunately, we do know it is not anytime soon,” they added. “We are at the mercy of the weather, engineers, and insurance adjusters ... We are grateful for our community and are devastated that we are leaving you without a grocery source.”

A subsequent post shared Tuesday said that the shop is expected to have a second location up and running to provide produce and non-perishable essentials to people, starting in the next few days.

“It is not good, that’s for sure,” said Paul Blain of Delta Junction. “I would be surprised if we got them back up and running within the next two months ... They basically have to recreate the entire roof, clean up the inside. I can only imagine everything that’s been damaged.

“We have the IGA, and then we have two gas stations locally that sell food, and then a few select restaurants,” he explained, “which, I’m sure they’re going to have supply chain issues with not being able to get to Fairbanks. The roads from here to there are iced over, just caked in ice.”

Blain said the nearest grocery store to him, other than the IGA, is more than 65 miles away.

“We can get select goods here in Delta,” he said. “The co-op is selling milk and whatever eggs people are producing from livestock, but that’s going quick. A big town can’t really be supported by that few chickens.”

As for what’s next, it’s important to be as prepared as possible. Consider stocking up on supplies, and keep an eye on Alaska 511, which can help people stay updated on the latest road conditions from across the state.

“Now we’ve got these back-to-back events,” Frye said, “and our operators are back out there trying to plow fresh snow off of the ice, so we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. And conditions might remain really difficult for a while.

“We’re supposed to get between 8 and 12 inches of snow with this system that’s rolling through, and our heaviest snow will likely be overnight, so people could wake up in the morning to tough conditions.”

Also, remember to check on neighbors. Some don’t have access to internet or other resources, so consider checking in on those around you to make sure they’re in good shape.

Get up-to-date road condition reports at Alaska 511 by clicking here or calling 511 on a phone or mobile device.

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