Alaska town digging its way out after record 18 feet of snow
Several homes in Cordova, Alaska, are buried after weeks of record snowfall.
January 9th, 2012
03:33 PM ET

Alaska town digging its way out after record 18 feet of snow

Snow in Alaska doesn't usually make big headlines, but even The Last Frontier has extremes.

Cordova, an isolated coastal town of about 2,000 people about 150 miles east of Anchorage, appears to be one of the hardest-hit locales, with the state National Guard reporting that it was sending Guardsmen and resources Monday after weeks of record snowfall left the city  buried under 18 feet of the white stuff.

The state activated its State Emergency Operations Center on Friday to help Cordova handle the snow. The town had issued a disaster declaration earlier in the day.

Cordova is "isolated off the state highway system," according to the Guard, and the sea and airport are the only way in and out of the area. The National Guard sent resources to Cordova as conditions worsened and residents scrambled to dig themselves out Monday.

“Cordova is continuing their outstanding job responding to several weeks of intense snowfall,” John Madden, director of the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said in a statement. “Cordova utilized all of their snow management resources to maintain emergency access but now face a new round of storms that will bring heavy snow and perhaps rain.”

The most recent storm alone brought 42 inches of snow to the town, according to a news release from the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Photos from state agencies showed entire homes buried under snowdrifts and workers removing snow - 4 to 5 feet high in some places - from rooftops. The National Weather Service office in Alaska and the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management had myriad storm pictures on their Facebook pages.

Though some buildings have collapsed under the weight of snow, Cordova issued a news release saying that no homes had been damaged in a recent avalanche and that a major highway had been reopened, but schools remained closed Monday. The news release warned residents that conditions were "treacherous" and advised against any unnecessary travel that would impede the work of snow removal and safety crews.

Furthermore, the National Guard warned that as more snow and rain fall in Cordova, "avalanche danger remains very high."

With 39 inches in November and 82 inches last month, according to the Cordova Electric Cooperative, residents told the local newspaper that they haven't seen this much snow since the 1970s. One woman told a reporter from The Cordova Times that she began sobbing uncontrollably over the sight of more snow last week.

The roofs of buildings were submerged, businesses were seeing only a handful of customers, the beeping sounds from heavy equipment can be heard day and night, youngsters were making money shoveling out businesses and residents, and there was a rumor that a front-end loader had picked up a Subaru, the paper reported.

Though Cordova appeared to be facing the brunt of Mother Nature this week, various other parts of Alaska have seen record temperatures, precipitation and snowfall in the last week:

- Nome's Tuesday and Wednesday temperatures of -37 and -38 both broke decades-old records. On Monday, there was news that a U.S. Coast Guard cutter was helping a Russian tanker smash through ice up to 4 feet thick to deliver fuel to the iced-in locale.

- Cold Bay had 3.1 inches of snow on Wednesday alone.

- Galena had a record low of -54 on Saturday, beating the 1997 record of -52.

- The temperature in St. Paul reached a record 0 on Saturday.

- Record precipitation was recorded Sunday at the Haines and Juneau airports.

- Bethel had a low of -32 on Sunday, tying a record set in 1952, 1963 and 1975.

- Fairbanks reported Monday that it had experienced snow every day for 22 consecutive days.

- And Valdez saw 15.2 inches of snow Sunday, shattering the 2001 record of 10.5 inches.

- The Anchorage Daily News reports that the city's average snowfall each winter is 74.5 inches. As of Friday, it had already seen 70 inches.

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Filed under: Alaska • U.S. • Weather
soundoff (194 Responses)
  1. Dave836

    I don't care how old you are, if you don't make an awesome snow tunnel system out of that I question your sanity.

    January 9, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • blayde

      I 2nd that

      January 9, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rich in CO

      Heck, you could build a multi-level tunnel system there. With furnished apartments. And it wouldn't melt until SUMMER.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Question

      That would make for an amazing snowball war. Your would have a snow bunker, snow trenches with snow tunnels, that would be sweet.

      January 9, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • AKSean

      The kids and I got out in the front yard to start ours yesterday. We have 6-8 foot snow berms that make for a great fort. Of course, we have 40 degree weather with rain forecasted for Wed–what a bummer. We much prefer the snow to the rain this time of year. Unfortunately, the air has been too cold for good snowpack, so we just dug down to the layer of ice toward the bottom to do our tunnels. Lotsa fun. Wish you all could join in.

      January 9, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • NanookoftheNorth can have mine in Wasilla ! Enjoy those snow tunnels 🙂

      January 9, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. fred

    Is there a ski slope nearby? No snow in NY ski areas !

    January 9, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • ChicagoBear

      No snow in Chicago either!

      January 9, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • lancem

      None on the CA ski slopes either (other than man-made)

      January 9, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • No Snow in WI

      No snow in Wisconsin either...and it will hit 50 degrees this week.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rocky Mtn Gal

      Most of the Colorado ski resorts are struggling too... bases of 20"-25" when they should be more like 40" or more by now.

      January 9, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • wtavideo they have 49-109" depths

      January 9, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • No Snow in MI

      No snow in Michigan either. Mid/High 40's in the forecast

      January 9, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rod in Texas

    I wish we had some snow in Texas. I lived in upstate New York for several years and I loved the snow. I miss it here.

    January 9, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • JMILL

      i moved to florida from PA and i miss the snow too.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Ed Sr of Dallas Tx

    They seem to have electricity and I bet it is pretty in summer! I live in Texas and if we get one inch of snow Dallas shuts down for a week! I was brought up in western New York State where 3 feet of snow was common!

    January 9, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Fact Check

    39" November, 82" December, 42" January = 13 feet total over three months. If it was 18 feet in a matter of weeks, you wouldn't see any houses.

    January 9, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • lancem

      Yeah, the facts are a little screwy and that picture doesn't look like that much snow. We got 7 feet in one week last winter and it appears a bit deeper than that pic. And we did building a snow tunnel out the front door and on the deck.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • jaredk

      LOL don't forget the unmentioned snow total in October. And snow compacts as it layers on top of itself.
      You wanna see some pictures that show the snow? Check this out!!

      and keep in mind, What might look like hills with snow on them, aren't. If you were there and could see the volumes you'd believe it. I'm from Cordova and grew up there and am in touch with people dealing with this. This is a town in Alaska that gets lots of snow every winter. Believe you me, they wouldn't be calling in the National Guard if it weren't a big deal.

      January 9, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. fred

    Those crazy Alaskans ! Shoveling 18 feet of that GLOBAL WARMING again !!!!!!

    January 9, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amanda

      Global Warming...You mean that few of the non mountainous lower 48 have seen more than a few inches of snow, yet Arizona and New Mexico had a blizzard?

      Cause I'm sure it's not Global Warming that makes it 50F in January in Northern Illinois...
      and I'm sure Global Warming didn't contribute to the lack of White Christmas throughout most of the NorthEast.

      Good luck with that denial problem again tho...

      January 9, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      And your point is? If it's that you are about as ill informed as they come, then point taken!

      January 9, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gregory

      Yes warmer temps can mean more snow not less. nitwit.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • ladybear

      I live in Canada and have roses starting to bloom in my front yard.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinking7

      Global warming can cause extreme weather like that much snow in a certain area and other areas with much less than normal snow. What it means is that there will be extreme weather. Denial will get you nowhere fast. It's here, and we've messed things up big time.

      January 9, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Forrestal

      A heavy snowfall could be a clear indication that it's probably warmer than usual in Alaska. Here, in Minneapolis, it's 50 degrees today.

      January 9, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rocky Mtn Gal

      I wish people would call it what it really is– "climate change".

      January 9, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • flannel

      I 'm looking out my window and should see snow at least 3 ft. deep. Instead I see 6 inches. Rivers will be low this summer.

      January 9, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Andre

    I can't see Russia from my house!

    January 9, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • emma

      ROTFL: Andre wins best post!

      January 9, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • NanookoftheNorth

      I can ! (and she NEVER said that, you are quoting an SNL actress) dipwad.

      January 9, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andre

      duh NanookoftheNorth... hello! it was a play on the Palin skit of "and I can see Russia from my house" and because there is so much snow, it's now "can't see Russia from my house".

      January 10, 2012 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  8. gumg hoe

    Alaska can keep it as far as Iam concerned,would like the lakes to freeze over get some ice fishing in.Kinda hard when weather in mid michigan is mid 40s to mid 50s.But honestly if I dont get any ice fishing this year wont kill me,whereas shoveleing snow might!Really they can keep it theyre supposed to get it!Theyre used to it.The eskimoes need it for their igloos

    January 9, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. lolita

    why is this news? Its winter in Alaska!!! Helllooo!!!

    January 9, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ron

    It's those whacked out liberals again.

    January 9, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. gumg hoe

    Ya know climate change has been going on for eons.Please dont think this is manmade!Its been proven scientifically what little bit we put in the air is like a needle in a haystack.Unless you want to buy into al gores message,thats up to you but its hard to beleive him when he dont practice what he preaches

    January 9, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • AK is A O K

      @ gumg hoe: Al Gore doesn't practice what he preaches? W T F are you talking about??

      January 9, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grenville Cramchild

      Ah yes, another denier making up stuff as he goes. The record of increasing CO2 in the air is clear. It's been proven it comes from burning fossil fuels by isotope ratios. There is no other explanation. And whether Al Gore is a hypocrit has nothing to do with the science. Can't leave mis-information like yours unanswered.

      January 9, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sean

    So that is where all the snow are going! Hey, give us some!

    January 9, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rocky Mtn Gal

    Wish some of that snow would make its way to the ski resorts in Colorado. We're dying!! Our area is almost 100" below the season norm for mid-January. Businesses that rely on the ski trade are struggling big time.

    January 9, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Charlie

    Hrmm... someone should send this to the college profs making all that money off their global warming "studies."

    January 9, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Daniel

    The article makes it sound like Cordova has 18 feet of snow on the ground. Eighteen feet of snow might have fallen but the snowpack is only 8 feet except in drifts and berms.

    January 9, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
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