Coping with ‘a pandemic of snow’


  • Focus
  • Wednesday, 17 Apr 2024

File photo of a man using a shovel to remove snow from his roof/- AP

EVEN by Alaska standards, there’s a lot of snow this winter.

So much snow has fallen – so far, more than 2.6m – that roofs on commercial buildings are collapsing around Anchorage and officials are urging residents to break out their shovels to avoid a similar fate at home.

Recently, there was nearly 40cm of snowfall, pushing Alaska’s largest city past the 254cm mark earlier than at any other time in its history.

The city is well on track to break its all-time record of 342cm.

Now, even winter-savvy Anchorage residents are getting fed up with the snow-filled streets and sidewalks, constant shovelling and pandemic-era remote learning.

It’s already in the record books with this year’s snowfall, at eighth snowiest with a lot of time left this season.

“It’s miserable,” said Tamera Flores, an elementary school teacher shovelling her driveway as the snow pile towered over her head. “It’s a pandemic of snow.”

Last year, 274cm fell on Anchorage, making this only the second time the city has had back-to-back years of 254-plus centimetres of snow since the winters of 1954-55 and 1955-56.

This year, the roofs of three commercial structures collapsed under loads of heavy snow. Last year, 16 buildings had roofs collapse with one person killed at a gym.

The city has issued guidance urging people to remove snow from their home roofs.

Officials said there were snow loads of more than 146kg per square meter.

A file photo of a woman taking a photo of her sister-in-law in front of Snowzilla in Anchorage, Alaska. — APA file photo of a woman taking a photo of her sister-in-law in front of Snowzilla in Anchorage, Alaska. — AP

“That is a lot of weight,” the notice said.

It gave the example of a home with 139sq m of roof with 146kg per square meter of snow, which would be supporting about 20,411kg, or “about eight full size light duty pickup trucks”.

Since it’s so early in the season, people should think about removing the snow, especially if there are signs of structural distress.

These include a sagging roof; creaking, popping, cracking or other strange noises coming from the roof, which can indicate its under stress from the snow; or sticking or jammed doors and windows, a sign the snow might be deforming the structure of the house.

Signs have popped up all over town from companies advertising services to remove the snow from roofs.

Some fun has come from a whole lot of snow.

A snow plow clearing a residential street in Anchorage, Alaska and Fitts shovelling the driveway at his home — APA snow plow clearing a residential street in Anchorage, Alaska and Fitts shovelling the driveway at his home — AP

The deluge of snowfall this year prompted one Anchorage homeowner to erect a three-tiered snowman standing over 6m tall. Snowzilla, as it’s named, has drawn people to snap photos.

Last month, Anchorage had below zero (-17.7°C) temperatures overnight for seven days, and it only snowed after it warmed up on a Sunday.

But Anchorage residents may not be able to hold on to the old adage that it’s too cold to snow.

The Sunday storm was the first time since 1916 that over an inch (2.5cm) of snow fell in Anchorage when temperatures were -16.6°C or colder, said Kenna Mitchell, a meteorologist for the US National Weather Service.

And a return to bitter cold is likely what’s on tap soon. An upper level high pressure system could move back in, dropping temperatures back to below zero at night, possible below -23.3°C.

“This winter is definitely rough, but us Alaskans are definitely built different,” resident Damon Fitts said as he shovelled the driveway at his residence.

“We can handle 100 inches (2.5m) of snow and still make it to work on time,” he said. “We can put up with a lot.” — AP

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!
   

Others Also Read