Road crews face challenges in removing snow as active weather pattern continues

From the city to the state, crews are working overtime to keep up and possibly get ahead.
Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 7:39 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - If you’ve been thinking about having to constantly shovel and remove snow from your property, think about having to take it up a notch and what it must be like having to clear the snow from streets and sidewalks for an entire city.

Each of these “little” storms occurring back to back have made it seem relentless in trying to keep up the pace in clearing city streets and sidewalks. Because the recent storms have dropped “an inch or two here” and “an inch or two there,” municipality crews have not been using their traditional plow out cycles and schedules.

“Last Wednesday night we moved all the way to the east side of town and moved all of our graters, typewriter-ing across town east to west,” said Paul VanLandingham, street maintenance manager for the city. “Right now, they are about probably (to the) Old Seward Highway, heading west, and once we clear go all the way through that or depending if we get seven inches tonight, or over the next day or two, we’ll probably drop back into a traditional plow plan where each quadrant will probably have greater teams.”

VanLandingham also said the municipality is going to start hauling snow, day and night, for about the next two weeks.

Get in and start hauling cul-de-sacs, zero lot lines, all of the mains and arterials are going to need another round on that,” he said. “And so there’ll be more information on the web than probably as normal.”

VanLandingham was referring to the municipality’s snow plow information website that shows where crews are actively removing snow from city streets and sidewalks.

Finally, the city crews have been dealing with a few pieces of equipment being down, but VanLandingham says that maintenance crews have been working hard to get those back up and running.

The state’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities also has challenges of their own during this active winter weather pattern.

“We’re actually shutting down Hatcher Pass Road at mileage post 14 tonight (Monday) because of increased avalanche danger, and we are going to have a crew down on the Seward Highway doing some avalanche control,” said Communications Director Shannon McCarthy.

Hatcher Pass will close Monday night and stay closed through Wednesday morning and drivers can expect up to a 45 minute delay between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Wednesday near mileposts 44 and 37, at Summit Lake and the Wye Junction.

McCarthy also stated that the repeated 3-5 inch storms with only a day or two break in between take just as much staffing power to get the roads restored to good conditions just as much as if there was an 8-10 inch snowstorm.

“It is hard on the crews because, like for instance here in Anchorage, we only have seven to eight heavy equipment operators working on any shift, so we get a storm, and they throw everything they can at it, and then, you know, the next storm hits.”

And it’s not just Southcentral Alaska that’s been hit hard by this active winter weather pattern — the rest of the state has also been dealing with record setting winter weather this year, such as in Fairbanks and throughout Southeast. All of these events have been putting a strain on resources.

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