Juneau schools closed for a third day, 2 building roofs collapse under weight of heavy snow

Yakutat declares emergency, Alaska National Guard activated to help remove snow
Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 5:01 PM AKST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2022 at 8:49 PM AKST
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Schools in Juneau will be closed for the third day in a row and the roofs of two commercial buildings in Alaska’s capitol collapsed Tuesday under the weight of continued heavy snow that’s falling on the region.

The Juneau School District said in a letter sent to families that classes will be canceled again on Wednesday, due to hazardous conditions on roads and in parking lots. This includes all classes, activities and after-school programs.

“There will be no distance delivery or online classes,” the letter states. “Further updates will be posted on the district website www.Juneauschools.org.”

The district also said cleaning and repair work continues at Riverbend Elementary School, which experienced flooding when a pipe burst.

“Riverbend families will be updated on Wednesday about the plan for reopening the school,” according to the letter. “District staff are doing everything possible to prepare for reopening and remain hopeful that we can start back on Thursday. Please use caution when walking and driving around the community.”

Also on Tuesday, the City and Borough of Juneau warned residents about accumulating heavy snow on rooftops. The roofs of two commercial buildings caved in due to the weight of that snow.

“CBJ is aware of two building collapses this morning – a commercial building in Lemon Creek and a commercial building in the downtown area. According to Capital City Fire Rescue, no one has been injured in those collapses,” the City and Borough of Juneau wrote in a social media post on Wednesday.

The roof of a commercial warehouse in Juneau, Alaska collapsed Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022 under the...
The roof of a commercial warehouse in Juneau, Alaska collapsed Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022 under the weight of heavy snow that continues to fall on the region.(Sean Maguire/Alaska's News Source)

The commercial building in Lemon Creek is a warehouse that was being used to store some items for Barnacle Seafoods, as well as some gear for the Legislative Affairs Agency. That included surplus furniture, building materials and tools, the head of the agency told Alaska’s News Source on Wednesday.

Heavy snow and rain has been falling in Southeast Alaska this week, and the National Weather Service forecasts rain to continue for Juneau this week, with chances of snow. The National Weather Service also issued a special weather statement on Tuesday, saying that moderate rainfall and gusty wind conditions are expected for several Southeast communities this Thursday and into the weekend.

“In general, CBJ does not make recommendations on when to remove snow from roofs,” the city and borough wrote on Facebook. “There are a number of variables which make a borough-wide declaration of snow hazard impossible. Each individual building, building location, and part of building has slightly different conditions that may be totally different from its next-door neighbor. It is up to the individual property owner to consider the benefits and dangers of snow removal and decide their own course of action.”

Juneau was not alone as severe weather spread across Southeast Alaska this week. On Tuesday, the City and Borough of Yakutat declared a Local Disaster Emergency to the state due to “tremendous” amounts of snow and rain, according to a release from the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The Alaska National Guard has been deployed to assist the community with snow removal.

The State Emergency Operation Center requested support from the guard “given the fact that Yakutat is an isolated community off the road system,” according to the release. All local resources have been exhausted, it states.

A team of about 20 guard members and multiple vehicles are being sent to Yakutat on a military airlift. They will provide emergency snow removal for the community and assess building safety.

“The SEOC has received reports of snow and rain impacts in the region to include; collapsed buildings, communities cancelling schools, a Juneau grocery store closed for multiple days, and numerous private and public buildings leaking due to excessive weight on roof tops,” the release states. “At this time there are no reports of serious injury or deaths.”

Additionally, the Eaglecrest Ski Area announced on social media Tuesday that it will be closed on Wednesday due to “extremely hazardous conditions” in its parking lot and near its base facilities.

“The lower mountain has been hampered by freezing rain and the snowpack is becoming hyper-saturated,” the post reads.

The ski area asked skiers to wait until the area reopens, as staff need the parking lot to be as empty as possible to remove the ice.

Heavy snowfall in Southeast Alaska has necessitated the deployment of the Alaska National Guard...
Heavy snowfall in Southeast Alaska has necessitated the deployment of the Alaska National Guard to Yakutat following heavy snow loads jeopardizing buildings.(Mike Nederbrock)

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.

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